If You Love Something, Set It Free: Letting Go And Moving Forward

Medically reviewed by April Justice
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

For some people, letting go is a profoundly emotional and transformative experience. Navigating the challenge of releasing deeply held attachments often requires a gentle, empathetic, and informative approach. Although letting go can look different for each person, a few actionable steps might help you cope with any feelings that surface for you during this process.  

By exploring the reasons behind the difficulty of letting go, recognizing when it may be time to move on, and discovering practical tips for embracing change, letting go is a process you may be able to conquer. In addition, support is available if you struggle to move forward on your own.  

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Dive into letting go and coping with the emotions you may feel

Understanding the concept of letting go

Letting go often appears challenging due to an emotional attachment to a person, situation, or object. Fear of change and a sense of loss often factor into an individual's reluctance to move forward. However, understanding that everything in life has its cycle could help you accept that change might be a natural part of life. 

In addition, there are often benefits of letting go, depending on your situation. For example, you might experience the following: 

  • Personal growth
  • New opportunities
  • Emotional health 

When you learn to let go, you may feel more open to future possibilities. It may allow you to make room for fresh experiences and relationships while helping you release any emotional baggage that could hold you back from your goals. 

How to know when to let go

There are a few signs that you might benefit from letting go of a situation, person, or idea, including the following: 

  • Neglecting personal needs
  • Unhealthy behavioral patterns or habits
  • Extreme fear or emotional distress in your current situation 
  • A desire to change your life 

Although it can be tempting to resist your reality or feel that nothing in your life can change, acceptance is one way to actively decide to make a change. You can start with the following steps: 

  • Being honest with yourself
  • Evaluating the pros and cons
  • Seeking external perspectives

One way to further accept your situation is through the dialectical behavior skill called radical acceptance. To practice radical acceptance, try the following steps: 

  1. Observe how you might be questioning or fighting your reality.
  2. Remind yourself that your reality cannot be changed in this situation.
  3. Try to note any causes for the reality. Acknowledge how many people do not have control over who they fall in love with, but you can control how you proceed.
  4. Practice acceptance with your mind, body, and spirit. Use positive self-talk to tell yourself you are willing to accept this situation, even if it is difficult.
  5. List all the behaviors you'd partake in if you already accepted this situation. Then act this way until you find it aligns with your reality.
  6. Cope ahead by thinking of ways to accept the situation if it worsens.
  7. Attend to your body sensations using mindfulness or meditation to connect with yourself.
  8. Allow disappointment, sadness, grief, or anger to arise if they do. Note them and do not act on them. Give them the space to exist.
  9. Acknowledge that life can be worth living, even when there is pain.
  10. Create a pros and cons list if you are resisting acceptance further.
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Practical tips for letting go

When letting go, it can be valuable to embrace your emotions. Embracing your emotions might mean acknowledging your feelings, allowing yourself to grieve, and seeking support from others. Talking to someone you trust about your emotions could also provide relief and understanding. You can also create a new narrative by reframing your thoughts and focusing on the future. Instead of dwelling on the past, set new goals and concentrate on what you want to achieve moving forward.

Finally, establishing boundaries might be crucial when letting go. Setting boundaries might include reducing contact or disengaging from specific behaviors or conversations. Decide your limits, communicate these boundaries with the person or situation involved, and remain consistent.

Coping with the aftermath of letting go

After you've let go of a situation, object, person, or idea, you might experience emotional changes as you cope with the difference in your life. During this time, try to remember that healing can take time. Be patient with yourself, practice self-compassion, and recognize your progress. Healing may not be a linear process, and it can be normal to have setbacks if you keep moving forward. 

If you find it challenging to cope with the process of letting go, seeking professional help might be beneficial. Contact a therapist or counselor, participate in support groups, or consider online therapy options. Even if you feel shame about asking for help, a therapist may provide the tools and support necessary to navigate these feelings. 

In the aftermath of letting go, it might also help to reconnect with your interests and passions. Rediscover old hobbies, pursue new interests, and engage in activities that bring joy and fulfillment to your life. These pursuits could help you rebuild your sense of self and foster personal growth.

Building resilience for the future

Developing a solid support system might be crucial for building resilience. A robust support network could provide encouragement, understanding, and assistance in times of need. Try to cultivate meaningful friendships, strengthen family bonds, and make connections within your community.

You can also take a few lessons from letting, such as those about yourself or your life. Reflect on the lessons you've learned from the experience and apply this newfound wisdom to future situations. Try to be open to personal growth and embrace the opportunity to evolve because of your experiences.

Finally, practicing mindfulness and self-care could help you build resilience for the future. Engage in regular self-care activities, practice mindfulness through meditation or yoga, and prioritize your mental and emotional well-being. You might be better equipped to face future challenges and make healthier decisions by taking care of yourself.

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Dive into letting go and coping with the emotions you may feel

Counseling options 

Moving on can be challenging for many people and might feel like a mental or physical block. For others, mental health and wellness are barriers to moving forward. Regardless of your situation, therapy can be a tool for letting go. In addition, if you find traditional therapy doesn't fit within your budget or schedule, you might try online therapy with a therapist who can work with you from home. 

One benefit of internet-based treatment through a platform like BetterHelp is that it may allow you to gain professional guidance when experiencing difficult emotions. A therapist can offer a safe space to express and process your emotions. They can also provide you with tailored coping strategies and tools to manage the challenges that may arise during this transition. With an online platform, you can also have flexibility in your schedule, as you can meet with a therapist outside of standard business hours and choose between live chat, video, or phone sessions with your therapist. 

In addition, a study by Lindsay L. Barber found further evidence of the effectiveness of online therapy in facilitating recovery from a breakup. It showed significant declines in participants' anger, loneliness, and drinking to cope when they used an online chat or journal intervention compared to a no-treatment control condition over 12 weeks. The results suggest that tailored online interventions can be a valuable resource for those seeking to move forward with resilience. 

Takeaway

Letting go of anything can be challenging. However, for many, it is a step toward personal growth and emotional well-being. By understanding the concept of letting go, recognizing when it's time to let go, implementing practical tips, coping with the aftermath, and building resilience for the future, you might feel better prepared to navigate the complexities of life and embrace new opportunities. 

Professional support could be a valuable resource if you're struggling to let go on your own or feel unsure about your decisions. Consider reaching out to a therapist for further guidance and compassionate advice.

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