When I reflect back on my life, there were a few relationships that brought me much grief at their end. I went through all the stages of loss as if they were a death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
The first four emotions seemed to happen automatically, but acceptance was a choice. It took awareness and practice. But first, I needed to be willing.
You’ve heard the story of forgiveness, the one where the man is climbing the big mountain, carrying a big bag on his shoulders. The bag represents what he has yet to forgive. He’s carrying the weight himself, not from the person’s actions that he finds unforgiveable—it’s his back that’s breaking, causing him pain and discomfort, no one else’s. Forgiveness is about letting go of this heavy burden.
But personally, even though we have been told so many reasons for why forgiveness is the best option, I’m not so sure it is the best or only way to lighten the load.
When I was getting my Masters in spiritual psychology, forgiveness was a huge part of the program. We worked with the statement, “I forgive myself for judging myself as _________” or “I forgive myself for judging another person as __________________.”
The point was to forgive ourselves for our own judgments, not necessarily to forgive the other person for their actions. This sets us free.
Over the years, I’ve expanded that practice to encompass a greater level of acceptance, to something called appreciative joy.
When I look back now at the relationships that ended, even if painful in the moment, I can see they ended because they no longer served me.
They concluded when it was time for me to experience a different direction in my life and come to a new place within myself. Even if it was painful during their endings, those relationships no longer met me in the present and were actually standing in the way of my growth.
Perhaps there was an unhealthy dynamic or pattern that needed to change in myself, and the only way for it to do so was to end the relationship.
Perhaps I wanted or needed things that the other couldn’t deliver and had to give those things to myself on my own. The end of this relationship would open me to discover a future relationship that would better fulfill my needs.
Perhaps I learned all that I could learn from the relationship and it was really only intended to last a little while. A new relationship model, another level, and different perspectives were ready to enter in.
I could let go when I truly came to appreciate my own happiness.
I think this is key: experiencing happiness and fulfillment in ourselves first. Then our happiness for the well being of others follows.
When we are full within ourselves, we no longer need another to fulfill what we are lacking or seeking for. We appreciate how they touched our lives in the past, but we can be far more focused on making our present into the absolute best it can be.
When we can appreciate our own joys it becomes easier to appreciate the joys of others, even when it comes to people who no longer fit in our lives. It’s the appreciative joy for another that truly sets us free!
Wishing you the freedom of letting go of what no longer serves!