Letting Go: The First Transition Phase
“Holding on is believing there is only a past;
letting go is knowing there is a future.”
~Daphne Rose Kingma
“Just let it go…” “You need to move on….” “She’s moved on, why can’t you?…”Letting go is hard, but I know you can do it….”
Any of these phrases sound familiar to you? I know I’ve heard them, thought them, said them.
Whether it’s been related to the recent change in our political climate, the loss of a beloved pet, suddenly facing unemployment or a job position change, or the empty nest, change is hard.
And when the change begins to affect our lives by changing our role, our relationships, our situations, or life views, it has become a transition.
A few things can happen when we’re in a transition, where we’re feeling stuck, lost, un-moored, or unhappy after a life changing event.
We might feel we’re putting on a good front for everyone else. Externally, we smile and put on the appearance that all is well. Yet on the inside, we’re crumbling.
We might simply just sweep whatever is happening under the rug, slam the door and refuse to look at it.
Oh, we might have had a celebration or ritual when the change occurred: A retirement party, a funeral, a moment of packing up our things and slowly moving on.
We may have gone through the external motions of something ending. But inside, we’re still holding on. We haven’t let go.
And that holding on uses a lot of our energy. Letting go sounds good, but maybe the old ways are just too familiar.
In our Western world, society encourages us to move on.
It wants us to hurry up and get back to our “old” selves again. Well-meaning friends and families offer up platitudes, like, “When a door closes, a window opens.” We begin to compare ourselves to others who seem to be handling a similar transition with grace and ease.
We worry something is really wrong with us.
Only you can determine the intensity and emotional significance of your transition, and you will travel through it according to your own psychological timeline.
So, take a deep breath, or two. Send yourself some love and compassion right now. There’s no hurry.
But listen to what Leia says next:
Writing about both the change and your feelings about the change (the transition) helps you integrate change in a powerful way.
What she is not saying is this: Write a memoir about how you’re suffering. Even as I write this, I have to laugh. I’ve tried it. And I can speak from personal experience that while writing one’s memoir is therapeutic and beneficial in recovering from a significant change, for many of us it’s not enough. We may be pouring our heart out on the pages, and see a transition happening in our lives, but then we have to get caught up in the editing, revising, publishing things. We often rush from one thing right into the other without opportunity for deep writing about the transition itself.
What she is saying is this: There are skills you can develop and knowledge you can learn while you’re in the midst of your transition now, or still experiencing the pangs of a change that happened years or decades ago. And these skills and knowledge can help you process the transition on the inside. And the first phase in writing through a transition is Letting Go.
Why writing? Because writing forces us to put our rambling thoughts, feelings, emotions into a container that is our journal. We write for our own eyes, not someone else’s. Once the words appear on the page, they offer concrete expression to what is often abstract in our minds. Writing helps us clarify and “get more” from our transition journey than simply thinking about the transition. We can take was is on the inside and bring it out in the light of our journal to actually see what there is to see.
For instance, in the Letting Go phase writing can really help us define our change. We become more aware of exactly what it is we need to let go.
And as for letting go? Leia’s wisdom is spot on. She notes that writing about letting go and the ending is not the same as letting it go. She says:
In the transition process, nothing is ended until it is ended in your heart.
Ready to start exploring a transition still holding you back? Hop on over to Leia’s website and check out her workbook Writing Through Transitions, a rich source of wisdom about transitions and the three stages–Letting Go of the Old Way, In-Between, and Accepting the New Way. It’s full of journaling and simple creativity prompts to dive in at a pace that suits your own rhythm. It offers assurances that when you’re ready to let go, you’ll know in your heart.
Or if you’re looking for a more facilitated transition experience, I’m offering Caterpillar to Butterfly: The Power of Writing Through Change, a transition workshop beginning Monday, June 19th. This is a virtual, self-paced four week course. You’ll choose a transition you want to work on, explore the three phases of a transition through writing and creativity prompts while gaining skills and knowledge about how to not only process one transition, but also others.
Life is full of change. As Lao Tzu reminds us:
New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.
So here are three questions to consider: What’s ended or is ending in my life? What is it that I need to let go? Am I curious about learning how to let go so I can move forward?
If you answer yes to the last question, I hope you’ll explore Caterpillar to Butterfly: The Power of Writing Through Change. I’d love to have you in the workshop.
Not for you? I understand. Perhaps you’ll consider sharing this through your favorite social media stream by clicking below. With deep gratitude!