Letting Go: How to Master the Art

Letting Go: How to Master the Art

We humans know how to fight for the things that are important. We fight for relationships, for people, for jobs, for things to stay the same. But here’s the thing – they don’t always fight as hard to hold on to us. One of the greatest sources of hurt is holding on to things that are trying to let go of us. The harder we hold on, the more it hurts. The problem with this is that we have nothing free to grab the things that will be good for us when they come our way.

If you’re in the midst of a knock down, you will get through, but first you have to release your grip on whatever it is that’s holding you back. You can’t know the possibilities that lie ahead until you open up to the world and let it show you – which it will.

Think of it like being in a boat that’s sinking. You know you have to let go of something but you can’t. You won’t. If you’re honest, you know that the things that are heavying you are dead weights, but you do remember a time, once, when it felt good to have them around. That was a while ago though and now you can’t actually remember the last time they brought you joy – real joy that you could relax into because you knew there was plenty there. Meanwhile, your boat keeps sinking and with all of that weight on board, there’s no way it’s moving any closer to land.

I could tell you the heartache and sadness that comes with letting go is part of your ‘journey’ (though I won’t because I actually hate that word when it’s used like that). I could tell you that the lessons you’ll learn will set on track for the life you deserve. I could tell you all of that, and it would be true, but I also know from having been brought to my knees before, that none of that seems to matter when your knuckles are turning white from holding on.

[irp posts=”993″ name=”Getting Rid of Emotional Clutter (And Making Way for the Things That You Really Want)”]

Here’s what I also know about letting go. The most terrifying part is just before you loosen your grip. Once you let go, momentum will take over. For a while it might be bumpy, but that’s all part of the re-align. Once you’ve made the move away from the things that are hurting you, the things that will be good for you will find you. It might take time but it will happen. It can’t help but be that way – we’re all wired for balance and have everything we need for that inside us. Here’s how to stay strong during the let-go.

  1. Make the decision.

    The hardest thing about letting go is making the decision and feeling okay about it. The ‘what-if’s’ will kill you and talk you into tightening your grip every time. That doesn’t mean they’re right. Set a time limit (‘If I’m still unhappy in six weeks …’) or a condition limit (‘If this happens one more time …’).  There are some questions to ask yourself to sure up your resolve:

    •   Do I feel bad more than I feel good? If yes, it’s time to let go.

    •   What has to change for me to feel happy and secure? Have I ever seen this before?

    •   Is this person, job, relationship is capable of giving me what I need?

    •   What do I get from staying? Is it something real? Or something long gone. When was the last time I got this?

  2. Change ‘Can’t’ to ‘Won’t’. 

    There’s a difference between giving up and knowing when to let go. Giving up is ‘I can’t’. Letting go is, ‘I won’t.’ The difference is subtle in sound but enormous in impact. Giving up comes from a place of defeat. ‘I don’t have the capacity or the ability to do this. I’m spent.’ Letting go, on the other hand, comes from a position of strength. It’s a decision to cut yourself from the things that weigh you down. Fight for them, and fight hard, but know when to stop.

  3. You’re not doing something wrong. You’re doing something brave.

    If you’re questioning whether or not to let go of something that’s been there a while, it might feel risky and it might feel wrong. It might even feel selfish. But it’s not any of those things. It’s brave. Really brave. If you’re at the point where you’re hanging on to something that doesn’t feel right any more, or that’s hurting you, one of the bravest and strongest things you can do is to listen to that, especially in the face of the clamour that keeps giving you reasons to hang on tighter. There’ll probably be a few of those reasons, but that doesn’t make them good ones.  It probably makes them habits – and you don’t want to ruin yourself over a habit. 

  4. Know what’s stopping you. Then move it along.

    What’s holding you back from letting go? Are they your reasons or someone else’s? If you’re stopping yourself from letting go because of ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ and ‘what will they think’, stop right there. Some people will might have a problem with you letting go and moving on, it’s true, but it’s most likely because you’re doing something that they themselves are too scared to do. Taking flight by letting go of the things that weigh you down can have a way of triggering those who are weighed down themselves. But don’t let that stop you. When you’re flourishing there’ll be nothing left for them to say. For the most part, people tend to be generous and want to see others happy. They either won’t care at all about what you do, or they’ll have great respect for your courage and will be willing you on.

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  5. The three choices.

    If you’re unhappy, you have three options:

    •   change what you need (sometimes that means letting go of expectations – not always easy to do);

    •   change the environment in which you’re trying to have your need met (either by leaving the one you’re in or by looking elsewhere); or

    •   accept that you just won’t be happy (but be honest – can you really live like that?).

    That’s it. There’s no other options. The only person who can make that decision is you. If you’re at the point where you feel unhappy more than you feel happy, it’s likely that one option will be a stand out. Make the decision that your days of wishing for more than you have are over and decide that nobody will limit you. If you’re not getting what you need where you are, the only way to change that is to move on. And that’s completely okay.

  6. Don’t expect change.

    Your best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. Though people change over time, they change according to their own path, not someone else’s. People can change but only if it comes from them. If it comes from you, it will be temporary. The energy it takes for anybody to change is enormous and can’t be sustained long term unless the motivation comes from within.

  7. It’s okay to fall apart for a while. It really is.

    Letting go can feel like rubbish – not always – but mostly. If it was easy to let go you would have done it ages ago, and it wouldn’t have felt like a letting go, it would have felt like a ‘transition’. Accept that the road might get bumpy for a while but that’s not a sign to turn back. Sometimes the only way through is straight through the middle.

  8. Trust that you’ll be okay. Because you will be.

    We’re wired for survival, both emotional and physical. When we hang on so tightly to something the energy we could be using to move forward is stuck with the job of hanging on. Once you let go, that energy that was holding you back will start to move you forward. It might not feel like that for a while – letting go can be hard – but trust the process and remember the reasons you made the decision. Good days are coming, and you will see soon enough why your brave move was such a good one for you.

  9. What you’re scared of is already with you.

    We hang on because we’re scared of what might happen. If you’re hanging on to something that is trying to let go of you, it’s like that you’re already feeling something like what you’re scared of feeling if you let go. Fighting to keep something that’s not fighting to keep you is a sad, lonely, insecure and frightening place to be. You’re most likely already feeling the very things you’re scared of feeling. The difference is that you can’t do anything about it because rather than being able to use your energy to regain balance and move forward, you’re using it to maintain a status quo that probably doesn’t deserve to be maintained.

  10. Let go, and let the momentum take over.

    Hanging on is all about resistance. Let go and you’ll initiate a momentum towards rebalance. It might take a while, and it might get worse before it gets better, but there are new possibilities waiting for you when you are ready to be open to them.

  11. Have an anchor.

    Often when you let go, you’ll remember things as being better than they were. What the strongest evidence you’ve had that it’s time to let go? Was it a conversation, a feeling, a(nother) disappointment? Remember that. Hang on t it and remember it every time you feel the pull to hang on again.

  12. Cry. Go on. It’s good for you.

    Research by Dr William Frey PhD, a biochemist at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis found that tears of sadness contained stress hormones and other toxins that build up during stress. Other studies suggest that crying encourages endorphins, the body’s natural ‘feel good’ hormones. Reflex tears, on the other hand are 98% water.

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  13. Feel it fully.

    You’re going to feel sad, angry, maybe confused or scared. Whatever it is that’s in you, has to come out of you. Feel what you’re feeling fully. Put it on paper. Have a cry in the shower. Turn up the music and let it out. Do what you need to do to release the energy. Then you can move forward.

  14. What can you learn?

    About yourself, your expectations, the people who are good for you and the ones who don’t work so well. No experience is ever wasted. Learning from your experience is the best way to make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes, find yourself in the same type of relationships or around the same sort of people. With the learning will come closure and movement forwards.

We’re all here to grow and flourish and we all deserve to be happy. Having to let go of things that were once important is part of life – a painful part, but normal nonetheless. None of us stay the same. We grow constantly. That doesn’t mean that everything in our lives will grow in the same direction or at the same rate.

Letting go is one of the hardest, but one of the bravest things we can do. With everything we leave behind, there is so much more waiting ahead. Be able to be ready with open arms when it comes.

(Photo Credit: Unsplash | Chelsea Francis)



If you’re unhappy, you have three options:. I offer that you can

Accept it
Change it
Leave it

And know that you cannot change people.. you have to accept them or leave them..

This works with every situation in life that you are not happy with..


I have no idea how to leave. I have been married forty years in two weeks. For the first thirty five years our marriage was like a fairytale. We shared our goals, dreams , agreed on issues with our two children and simply enjoyed life. We also were involved in a spiritual life. We were blessed by some people’s standards by being extremely successful in a start up business which sold for a large substantial amount of money. We built that company from ten employees producing about ten to twelve hard parts for the RZ industry and counting pennies for our children’s lunch money. Success happened overnight. I was working a day job then working at night, but good timing along with great work ethic that produced quality products provided us an opportunity to sell the company for over ten million dollars. Starting with a 25,000 investment in just three years. Things changed but we were still kept to our values. Over the years the job demanded many social activities where large amount of alcohol were always available. We would have a bottle of wine on a special occasion, but never even kroon any alcohol in our house because my father was an alcoholic my entire life. He was killed at 49 in a single car accident while under the influence of alcohol. Again as my children progressed through junior and high school we both enjoyed and was active in all school activities and enjoyed a blessed family life. When our children left for college born Im
Back to back years, my husband had to deal with some painful family problems with his elderly father who had developed an addiction to opioids from many surgeries. His father divorced his 78 year old mother for a local drug dealer. Also had squandered the family’s money and home. My husband then started to come to bed after I did. I found that strange because he always would want me to go to bed when he did. I then discovered he was using large amounts of alcohol after I went to bed. It developed into full blow alcoholism within a year.!he attended a 90 day treatment center and had had some success if nine months being the longest. My husband is a loner when he drinks. He will go to his farm alone and stay from one week to six or seven weeks at a time. In the last year he has become verbally abusive and had pushed me on a few occasions. When he is on his dry periods he is his old self telling me how much he loves me and is involved in our children and grandchildren’s lives. He adores all of them.Now the binges are getting closer together and is getting impossible to deal with. He lies constantly about his drinking. He decided about three years he wanted a divorce, but I stayed to keep my family together. I know look back and know that was a mistake. He has been really sorry about that or so he says, but now he won’t leave our house when he is drinking and it is becoming unbearable. He turned 60 this year and gets meaner every binge he goes on now. I just can’t take this life anymore. I feel like I live on a roller coaster, not knowing which husband will come home tonight. I still love him but am tired of his constant verbal abuse and broken promises. It is like I live with two different men. He will make elaborate vacation plans when he is sober then might follow through with about twenty percent of them. We have numerous businesses and I know a divorce will be lengthy and involved. I trusted him completely with our finances, which now I know nothing about. I am turning sixty my birthday and can’t vision the rest of my life so unpredictable. It is tome for me to forget the great thirty five years we had because they are gone and learn to deal with the present. I know I have a gut wrenching decision I need to make soon. Please help!


Hi Mary, it is interesting how having commented on this article 4 years ago, I keep getting pinged and it allows me to review life since those first awful months of my separation/divorce. I was moved to reply to you, setting aside the emotional parts for the moment, so I’m sorry if I seem clinical: get an attorney, get a financial advisor and get a therapist. The first and hardest realization for me was that for the first time in 20+ years, we were no longer a team and I had to protect myself. We are now friends, we raise our son peacefully, we do stuff as a family, but literally the day after we moved him to his dad’s, I separated bank accounts and called an attorney, and we did not have a business, very much money or current substance abuse in the mix. This is not to say I didn’t later, out of sadness/guilt/pity make some stupid financial decisions in regard to him! In terms of his drinking, I would recommend Al-Anon or an equivalent if you aren’t in the U.S. You can’t fix him. I say this as a recovering (of 12 years) alcoholic myself. It has to come from himself, and you can support him in his sobriety, but you can’t throw yourself on the pyre of his destruction. What is happening now does not negate the good times, but the good times do not mean that the bad isn’t happening right now. Maybe he gets his shit together in the future, but part of becoming sober is owning that the bad stuff really happened, and accepting that the people around you needed to do what they had to do. For now, it’s lifeboat rules and your physical, emotional, and financial well being are paramount. Life does get better. You will get better. You can survive this. I wish you strength and peace!


I’m struggling with a husband who I have been married to for 49 years. He had a stroke 4 yrs ago that left him mildly disabled but the emotional relationship with him has significantly changed. He just a week ago suffered a heart attack and then emergency open heart surgery. I have disconnected from him and I feel the pain for him. But I too am feeling guilty about my withdrawal. The sexual inappropriate advances and daily need for sex has exhausted me therefore I have cut him off. He had always had extreme desire for sex and has shown disrespect for me at times by exposing me. I love him as I love my children but not as a marriage partner. His needs are always more important than mine. My children don’t get it and that really hurts. I feel lonely sad and trapped by my sadness and loss.


Please help!
Your article on Letting go is to the point and sounds like the right way to go if warranted. The contents and pathway are so terrifying and scary as hell to me. It’s sad people have to experience that sort of thing in their lifetime. Having said that, I did breakup a couple of weeks ago with my GF of 19 years. I just couldn’t handle our long distance relationship (LDR), She transfered 700. miles away for a job. In addition, my GF seemed to bond excessively with her 33 unwed daughter who has a 4 year old child. I am not jealous but I really felt like I was marginalized in the relationship. Should there be boundaries? We did have a good relationship up to about 4 years ago, that was before her daughter moved in. I tried to explain my discomfort regarding the LDR and was not given a heartfelt response that made me feel comfortable or sooth my insecurities due to loneliness. She basically downplayed my concerns. Eleven months into the LDR I broke up with her. Two days after I broke up, I panicked, got scared, lonely, more depressed and retracted the breakup. (please comment). We talked a couple of days later and things seemed to be fine between us. Then she stopped calling me. She said that I get angry and broke up with her when shes busy with her and she can’t spend time with me. I told her that I miss our intimacy. She signed off her e-mail with ‘”I love you and will always love you” (is this mixed signals or does it mean something?). How do you love someone and not try to make it work? There was never any substance abuse, violence, financial problems, infidelity or any other vices. I wrote her a heartfelt letter trying to patch things up. I haven’t heard from her in almost a week. I am 61 years old and she is 56. I am so scared of being alone. I know I am hanging on but do not want to start over again. I planned for a happy tretirement with her. It feels like our dreams are shattered. I havent I contacted her since. I felt fine after I broke up with her but was petrified when it all sunk in.
Please be blunt and do not pull any punches.

Karen Young

I completely understand your heartache. Sometimes relationships change in ways that aren’t right for one or both people any more. This isn’t necessarily about a deficiency in either person, but about the combination of the two of you not working. Adjusting to your new normal without her will be painful for a while, but you will get through this. Your fear of being alone isn’t uncommon, but that is no reason to be a relationship that isn’t working for either of you or both of you. Be kind and gentle with yourself. You will get through this but for now your heart, body and mind need to adjust to a new normal. There is no easy way to get through heartache – I wish there was but there isn’t. All I can say is that you will get through, and one day this will make sense.


Dear Karen- thank you so much for your words of encouragement. At this time I am having so much trouble letting go. I keep wishing she will call me and tell me that she had a change in heart. I am struggling to understand what the actual cause was for her to feel this way. This is the second time in my life that I experienced this sort of thing. The first was my divorse over 20 years ago. I want to cry but there is a mental block that wont allow me to do so. Thanks again Karen.


I”m working hard to do just that, to let go. Only problem is he won’t leave and I am not going to leave my home and everything I have, so he can have it. This is my home, I owned it before I met him, and yes he has made improvements, but it is still mine. THe divorce should settle this matter if nothing else rocks the boat, and then he will HAVE to go. Then I can legally enforce it, and I fully plan on doing just that. Now all I have to do is survive one more month of him living in the shop. I can do this and I will.


Thank you so much, your article has been so helpful to me. I am just a month old to my break up,,, have been on a 3 year relationship and it has been good for both of us to separate but the healing is just excruciating and when ever you move 2 steps forward your history will just take you a step back… we have been very happy together but lately things changed in a huge way i called if of and though i did i still feel sad at times… I’m glad i had read all the stories here and i feel that as much as it is difficult but it is possible.. only time heals and talking to people who understand where you at emotionally.. Love is precious and i pray every nice that some day i find it again but i well understand that i need to heal, get back to what, and how i wanna be tomorrow before jumping to the next relationship… i don’t hate him i don’t have that we are where we are i just wanna have my life back on track and be happy again….

Thank you very much for such healing


I am day 12 after the break up of my 11 year relationship. I’m 32, so it was pretty much my whole adult life. My gf told me she has feelings for someone we work with and wants to see where that goes. I moved out immediately, something I regret now as I should have tried to talk things through instead of bolting, but I couldn’t continue seeing them together. I watched their friendship develop over the last 2 months and she dismissed my concerns saying “it’s not wrong to have a friend” and that I couldn’t say who she could be friends with. She told me on Monday 18th that she realised I was right. She hadn’t realised her feelings until I pointed out her behaviour (eyes lighting up when she walks in, giggling together like teenagers, secret texts, unwilling to step back for the sake of our relationship)

Anyway, I am hurting badly. I have done a lot of soul searching and reading and learning about the path of our relationship and understand now that neither of us were particularly happy, more comfortable with our companionship. We had exciting life plans that I am grieving for.

II have been trying to keep my behaviour acceptable to her (no texts other than practicalities) because I desperately want to stay friends. She’s my best friend. But I realised reading this article that I am holding on where she is not. How she can move on so quickly after 11 years is beyond me, but she is. In trying to keep her friendship I am continually giving her the power to keep hurting me, I still have these expectations of how she/we could be and when she doesn’t do that I hurt all over again. I have realised that she is not the person I fell in love with, her morals are no longer the same and she is not the reliable trustworthy person she always was.

So I am going to try and let go. It is hard because our life was so perfect, after so many hard years. I am resentful that she has got away scot-free and there have been no repercussions or consequences for her emotional cheating, and that I have lost everything. But it is what it is.

Thank you for your article.

Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome Laura. I can hear the pain you are going through. It’s so often the way that we grieve not for a relationship, but for the memory of that relationship or the dreams we had for that relationship in the future. It’s one of the confusing things about love. The fantasy often keeps relationships breathing when the paths of the couple moved in different directions some time ago. That she has moved on is no reflection of the love she had for you, or perhaps still has. What it reflects is that, as you said, she is a different person now. Be gentle with yourself as you let go. You will get through this. In time the pain will ease and things will be clearer. It feels as though you have lost everything, I understand that. This experience will be preparing you for the happier version of your life that will find you when you move through the middle of this. You have a brave beautiful heart – you deserve a brave, beautiful love.


My ex broke up with me one day after we celebrated a special occasion because her family doesn’t approve of us. She has tried to persuade them for years but they issued her an ultimatum and told me she had to let me go. It’s been months since that and I’m still breaking into sudden sadness whenever she comes into my mind and thoughts. We met a few times after that, to hang out and though she still lets me hold her hands, she is blowing hot and cold at me, and has told me to move on. It’s really amazing how some people can do that so easily.


I think I am the only male in these comments. Well, I’ve done most of the above, there’s progress. But knowing that you’ve cut all kinds of communication and you suddenly see them send a text or you pick a call and find it’s them, kind of brings back everything.

Hey Sigmund

Yes it can be frustrating can’t it. Two steps forward and one step back. Just make sure you keep moving forward. You will get to a point where contact won’t hurt or bring back pain. Best wishes to you.


In regards to Annette Aug 2015 email:

I can surely relate to this article. I am going through that right now. We broke up in 2013. In 2015, he apologized then went right back to treating me as if he does not know me. Yes, the pain and hurt took me down for almost 2.5 years. He made it so hard for me at work. I cried seemed like every hour, every day and so forth. I thought his apology was sincere but in reality it was not. He has moved on with his life and dated some of my friends. It took a lot of prayer and going before God. I have truly forgiven myself and him. I am not mad at him. He is who he is. I am still his friend but hey. I am so much better. I guess what I wanted was an understanding of WHY he treats me so mean. I will never know that. I have read this article and I see myself all in it. I was told that he is mad at self and won’t accept responsibility, holding on to the past, and so forth. I am working on self and looking forward to new things. Can you provide some clarity?

Hey Sigmund

Sheila, it’s difficult to know why people are mean. Whatever the reason though, you really don’t want to be intimately involved with somebody who isn’t able to give you the love and tenderness you deserve. These people can change, but only when they are ready. Sadly, all the love and will in the world won’t change somebody who doesn’t see a problem with the way they are. There are much better things for you ahead.


Hello. Today is day 4, after the most painful break up of my life.

My partner for 15 years told me, literally out of the blue, that he had fallen in love with another woman.
He was the love of my life, I would have never expected that.

He left the house that same day (that was easy because our relationship was mostly long-distance, so we had kept our respective apartments).

Day 1-2-3 have been the worst of my life (no sleep, no food, feeling cold and trembling all day). Today I have discovered your blog, and these articles are the first thing that makes me feel better. Now I know that I am going through a sort of illness, and my body is recovering from an addiction; but I know I will be stronger at the end.

Thank you so much!

Hey Sigmund

Monica I’m so pleased the articles have been able to give you some comfort. Breakups are awful and the way yours happened is such a painful thing for anyone to go through. You will get through this and when you will heal – stronger for the breaks.


Hi this is such an incredible article.. Just what I neeeed to move on. I printed it out and will read daily so I can move with focus and to a new pure direction.

Hey Sigmund

I’m so pleased the article has found it’s way to you. I hope it continues to give you the strength and clarity you need to keep moving forward.


Hey, I’m the Jennifer from May 16, 2015. It’s been a full year since the breakup, today is the 20th anniversary of our first date. It’s been a long but very personally fruitful year. Back in May, I was just coming off the adrenaline of “life is going to be FINE” with gritted teeth. It then got very dark. But that was the point where I had to trust my loved ones and therapist that it is OK to grieve and founder and doubt and scream but not to have to do anything about it. I’ve always thought that you have to keep moving and fixing but sometimes you just need to stay in the pain and really experience it. Then I was free. Overall I am very happy in myself and with my ex. Our son is happy. It’s bizarrely weird sometimes to be just cordial with someone I was so intimate with and felt such strong emotions for and with, and today is especially sad, but space and time and my support team have helped me come through. It was, simply said, the right thing to do, despite the pain.


What you’re saying resonates, probably because it’s what I’ve been saying to myself for a long time. What stops me every single time is the vulnerability of it all…and honestly some of my own gaslighting. I feel crazy for knowing I need to end relationships with so many close relatives…my mom, my inlaws, etc. But then I question if maybe it’s just me…maybe I’m just being crazy and have unreal expectations. And then I always go back to the realization that I’m not even remotely happy near any of them. But my brain has a hard time justifying the release of people so close.

Hey Sigmund

Yes I completely understand how hard it is to let go of people close to you. The key is how you feel in these relationships. It doesn’t necessarily mean the people around you are bad, but if these relationships weaken you in any way, then they are bad for you. If you have stood back and opened your heart and your mind to anything you might be doing that is contributing to the problem, and have made an effort to be the best you can be in these relationships, then that is all you can do. If these relationships still diminish you, then that is what you need to take notice of. All important relationships wire themselves into us in some way, and letting go will always be difficult, but this will pass eventually. Listen to your gut and your own intuition on this.


I got slightly intimate with my past partner and even by following these steps I still feel attached. I don’t want to lose him as a friend ever. I got over my last exes easy and we are still great friends…so why is this any different?

Hey Sigmund

Breaking up with someone activates the same part of the brain that deals with withdrawal from any addiction. Every time you have contact with that partner, if there is any feeling at all, it gives you a mini ‘hit’ and reactivates your need to be close to that person. The best way to move on from any relationship is to have a period of no contact so you can help yourself to mentally, physically and emotionally withdraw from that person.

Sue F

That is very interesting Karen and explains a lot to me. I split from a sibling a few years ago with no contact and then had contact and there was definitely a feeling of almost euphoria. But this did not last long and the old unresolved issues resurfaced. Unfortunately the break away the second time was a lot more painful and confusing than the first no contact and I’ve often wondered why.


I am so glad I have found this site. I have been left by my fiance of 6 years. I have never loved someone so closely and openly as I did him. He was my world and he knew it. We had many ups and downs along the road, but he confessed to me every day how he would be with me for the long haul and never ever leave me. I loved him for everything that he was. Infact, I found very little flaws in him…he was perfect for me. Then he left. I didn’t think this would ever happen. I was completely devastated. I ended up in a psyche hospital over it and he came back. But I knew he wasn’t happy with me anymore and wanted to leave but just didn’t want to be the one to leave me. So I told him he should leave. That is what he wanted to hear and left right away. He replaced me within a few weeks and told me he was getting married to her. Now after a year, I am still mourning for him. Torturing myself with thinking of him every single day is something I just can’t seem to stop. I just want to go on with my life and stop thinking of him and missing him so much so I can be happy again, if that’s possible. How long will this process take? I’m miserable the way things are now.

Hey Sigmund

I’m so glad you found us here too! It sounds as though the last year has been such a painful one. I wish I knew how to make things better for you. You did the right thing letting him go. He was on a different path to you and there is nothing more lonely than being with something who is trying to let go and move in a different direction – not because of you or who you are, but because of where you are both at.

There’s no clear answer for how long the grieving should take. It will take as long as it needs to for you to start being able to imagine and create happiness without him. You can do that and you will. A breakup is an emotional and physical withdrawal – it takes time. Here is some information about what you’re going through, in case you haven’t read it https://www.heysigmund.com/your-body-during-a-breakup/. You are adjusting to a different kind of normal, but this is difficult because it sounds as though you are still hanging on so tightly to the old one. I really understand that, but there is love and happiness waiting to find you when you are able to be open to it.


I needed this…it’s time for me to let go of my marriage…he cheated on me 3x and I took him back. I was at point in my life where I good without him then I would think about all the good times that we use to have then I would miss being single then we would split up then we got back together then again I would miss being single and now we’re back in the same boat…ugh I don’t know why I keep going hack when it’s not what I want. I keep thinking things will change…no that he will change be this outspoken, happy go lucky willing to try anything when he’s not that person. I want him to be more like someone else that I know but it will never happen. He doesn’t have the same drive that I have. All he wants to do is raise kids and work his job everyday where as I want to go out and learn about new things and see new things and meet new ppl and still raise my children. I’m chasing after all of my dreams. He just wants to sit at home. It’s so much that I want to do…that he doesn’t want to do…I have already moved on and he wants me to go back to who I use to be, but that isn’t going to happen I’ve changed…no I grew….

Hey Sigmund

I’m pleased you have reached a point of clarity and strength. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you all the very best moving forward.


How long does this process take. I know I need to let someone go they wont talk to me they feel off the face of the planet. But I have know them for 12 years and I felt so real how can it be so easy for them to pretend I do t exsist.

Hey Sigmund

The process takes as long as it needs to take and will be different for everyone. I believe that everyone comes into our lives to teach us or to learn from us. When this process is finished, the pain can be excruciating because it feels so personal. Not everyone will be on the same path, so not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay. That doesn’t mean that you or the relationship wasn’t important, or that it’s easy for this other person to let you go. What it means is that the growth and the reason for your being together has come to an end. I know how painful that it when the other person feels that ending before you do. The heart, body and mind will hang on for a long time because it feels so right and so familiar, kind of like an addiction. This will explain that a bit more https://www.heysigmund.com/your-body-during-a-breakup/ . It can be the same for the loss of any relationship, not just an intimate one. Part of letting go means appreciating what the relationship gave you, and seeing its ending not as a personal rejection, but as a readying for the next phase of your life – new learnings, people, opportunities. When that happens, you’ll be more able to let go of the familiar and open up to the unfamiliar and the possibilities that come to you with that. That will take time and will happen when you’re ready. Initially though, it’s important to let yourself grieve the loss and feel the feelings as you adjust (physically and emotionally) to a different kind of normal, whatever that looks like. Know that there will be a happier version of you to come.


wow. This article couldn’t have come at a better time for me. My husband of 20 years came home a month ago and declared he no longer loved me and that he was leaving. He was moved out six days later. He came to the house yesterday to gather some belongings and said he had met someone else and that he was “dating”. I have just had a late night emotional talk with my 16/17 year old son who is devastated and misses his dad terribly. My 19 year old daughter won’t even talk to him. I am sad beyond words and cycling through all the emotions in this article. I just never thought this would be me. I think this may be a very healthy community for me at this time in my life. Thank you for being here.

Hey Sigmund

Nic, I’m so pleased this article has been able to help you. It sounds as though. and your children have been through so much recently and it will take time to find a new kind of normal, but you will. The gap between an ending and a new beginning can be excruciating – I really understand that – but know that you will always be stronger, wiser and braver than you think you are. In the meantime I hope you can find comfort and belonging here. Much love and strength to you and your children.

Sue F

This is a fabulous article. I had to let go of a family member and was shamed by others for my decision to do so. It’s taken me a long time to get the balance back into my life. I KNOW that I have made the right choice for my emotional well being. Others do not see this and I have lost a few friends along the way. Yes we certainly did have some good times but we also had times filled with drama and upset. I’ve found little communities such as this and have also read lots of books to help me in my “journey”. We all deserve a happy and fulfilling life. Thank you Karen.


This article came at the right time. My husband is neither abusive, narcissistic or bad at all. He is a great man. I am a great woman. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are great together. For the last two months, we’ve gone back and forth between moving forward together or letting go. Needless to say the “what ifs” are holding us both back. Thank you for this article. I’m looking forward to reading more.

Hey Sigmund

You’re very welcome. You’re so right – letting go doesn’t necessarily mean that what you’re letting go of is a bad thing – sometimes it can be a great thing, but not right for you. I hope you are able to find the clarity you are after to make the best decision for you.


Where has this blog been all my life?

I am in the middle of a break-up and this article and a few others here have helped me. I’m terrified to let go, but as you said in number 1… “The ‘what-if’s’ will kill you and talk you into tightening your grip every time.”

I’m there at this very moment. Thank you for your words and insight.

Hey Sigmund

Oh Danielle breakups are awful aren’t they! And yes, the what-ifs will drag you down and sit on you – you don’t need that. So pleased you found Hey Sigmund. Hope you can find more of what you need here to keep you moving forward. Much love and strength to you.


Wow…love this article…. basically told me the same thing my mom tried to tell me for years up until her final breath…I’ve got a lot of thinking to do. I’ve got myself convinced that “I made my bed, so I have to lay in it” – a mentality that I obviously have to learn to change! Thank you for posting this.


Needed this. I am 3 and a half months into a separation, I still catch myself up with the idea that it was/is my responsibility to make this marriage work and keep it together, despite all evidence to the contrary. Especially the part about holding on to something(one) who isn’t holding onto me. My husband left and is in a relationship with someone else, but I keep thinking if I were only better/nicer/stronger/more generous, etc. it would not be so; discounting completely his free will in all this. I can’t change him, but I can change myself, IF I WANT TO. It never occurred to me that I may be OK as I am, and if I am not what he wants or needs in his life, that is his choice, not my failure.

Hey Sigmund

It sounds as though the marriage was important to you so it’s not surprising that you keep looking at what you could have done differently. That’s such a credit to you. Here’s what you need to remember: if he wanted you to be different it was his responsibility to tell you that. But if he told you that, would you want to be with someone who wanted you to be different to who you are? You are who you are and you sound pretty amazing to me. If that’s different to what he wants, then what he wants isn’t right for you. You don’t have to justify who you are to anybody and you certainly don’t have to change for them. You are many things – self-reflective, insightful, strong – a failure certainly isn’t one of them. Stay strong and stay true to who you are and know that you will get through this. Thank you for taking the time to connect and to share some of your story.


Jennifer sounds an incredibly wise and insightful woman and what a beautiful response from you Karen. I love this Hey Sigmund community.


This is just what I needed. Constantly dealing with a narcissistic ex husband, so I’m always reading and trying to learn new ways to keep myself in my happy place. For me and for my young son. Your articles are always so helpful to me!

Hey Sigmund

I’m so pleased this article has found its way to you and that you’re enjoying the articles. Dealing with a difficult ex can really intrude can’t it, but you and your son sound like a pretty great team.


Thank you for this. Though it was only a fairly brief relationship, the end of it left me reeling and confused. Your article has allowed me to look at it with rational eyes and clarity as opposed to clouded emotion. It has led me to see the truth and I hope I can hold on to that strength.

Hey Sigmund

You’re welcome Yuri. It doesn’t have to be a long relationship for the ending of it to hurt. I’m pleased the article has helped. Hold on to your truth, and use it to keep moving forward.


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There are lots of reasons we love people or places, and a big reason is that we love who we are when we’re with those people or in those places. It’s the same for our children.

Do they feel seen, important, fun, funny, joyful? Or do they feel annoying, intrusive, unimportant, stupid? Do they feel like someone who is valued and wanted? Or do they feel tolerated? Do they feel interesting, independent, capable? Or do they feel managed?

It’s so easy to fall into a space - and this can happen with the most loving, most wonderful parents - where we spend too much time telling them what to do, noticing the things they don’t do, ‘managing’ them, and not enough time playing or experiencing joy with them, valuing their contribution (even if we’ve had to stoke that a little), seeking out their opinions and ideas. 

We won’t get this right all the time, and that’s okay. This isn’t about perfection. It’s about what we do most and being deliberate when we can. It’s about seeing who they are, through what they do. It’s about taking time to enjoy them, laugh with them, play with them, so they can feel their capacity to bring joy. It’s about creating the conditions that make it easy for them to love the people they are when they are with us.♥️
This week I had the absolute joy of working with the staff of Launceston College, presenting two half-day workshops on neuroscience and brain development for children and adolescents. 

The teachers and staff at this school care so much about their students. The everyday moments young people have with their important adults matter so much. It’s through these moment to moment interactions that young people start to learn that they are important, believed in, wanted, that they belong, and when this happens, learning will too. It just will. 

This is what teachers do. They open young people up to their potential, to their capacity for learning and doing hard things. They grow humans. The work of a teacher will always go so far beyond content and curriculum. 

Thank you @launceston_college for having me. Your students are in strong and wonderful hands.♥️

Posted @withrepost • @launceston_college
#LC2022 #
Building brave and moving through anxiety are like lifting weights. The growth happens little by little. Sometimes this will be slow and clumsy. Sometimes it will feel big bold, certain, and beautiful. Sometimes undone, unhappened, frustrating. It all matters. 

There will be so many days where they will see the brave thing in front of them, and everything in them will want to move towards it but they’ll feel stuck - between wanting to and scared to.

This is the point of impasse. The desire and the resistance come face to face, locked in battle. On the outside this might look like frustration, big tears, big anger, the need to avoid or retreat (or in us, a need to retreat them), but inside the work to strengthen against anxiety is happening.

This isn’t the undoing of brave. It’s the building of it. In this precious space between the wanting and the fear, they’re doing battle. They’re doing the hard, imposing work of moving through anxiety. They’re experiencing the distress of anxiety, and the handling of it, all at once. They might not be handling it well, but as long as they’re in it, they’re handling it.

These moments matter so much. If this is all they do, then they’ve been brave today. They’ve had a necessary, important experience which has shown them that the discomfort of anxiety won’t hurt them. It will feel awful, but as long as they aren’t alone in it, it won’t break them. 

Next day, next week, next month they might handle that discomfort for a minute longer than last time. Next time, even longer. This isn’t the avoidance of brave. It’s the building of it. These are the weight lifting experiences that slowly and surely strengthen their resiliency muscles. These are the experiences that show them that the discomfort of anxiety is no reflection at all of how capable they are and how brave they can be. It’s discomfort. It’s not breakage.

These little steps are the necessary building blocks for the big ones. So, if they have handled the discomfort of anxiety today (it truly doesn’t matter how well), and if that discomfort happened as they were face to face with something important and meaningful and hard, let them know that they’ve built brave today.♥️
Anxiety is a valid, important, necessary way the brain recruits support in times of trouble. In actual times of danger, the support we give is vital. This might look like supporting avoidance, fighting for them, fleeing with them. BUT - when there is no danger, this ‘support’ can hold them back from brave, important, growthful things. It can get in the way of building resilience, self-belief, and the capacity for brave. All loving parents will do this sometimes. This isn’t the cause of anxiety. It’s the response to it. 

We love them so much, and as loving parents we all will, at some time or another,  find ourselves moving to protect them from dangers that aren’t there. These ‘dangers’ are the scary but safe things that trigger anxiety and the call for support, but which are safe. Often they are also growthful, brave, important. These include anything that’s safe but hard, unfamiliar, growthful, brave.

This is when the move towards brave might be in our hands. This might look like holding them lovingly in the discomfort of anxiety for a minute longer than last time, rather than supporting avoidance. It might look like trusting their capacity to cope with the discomfort of anxiety (and approaching hard, brave, growthful things) rather than protecting them from that discomfort. Knowing what to do when can be confusing and feel impossibly hard sometimes. When it does, ask:

‘Do I believe in them, or their anxiety?’
‘Am I aligning with their fear or their courage?’
‘What am I protecting them from - a real danger, or something brave and important?’

They don’t have to do the whole brave thing all at once. We can move them towards brave behaviour in tiny steps - by holding them in the discomfort of anxiety for a teeny bit longer each time. This will provide the the experience they need to recognise that they can handle the discomfort of anxiety.

This might bring big feelings or big behaviour, but you don’t need to fix their big feelings. They aren’t broken. Big feelings don’t hurt children. It’s being alone in big feelings that hurts. Let them feel you with them with statements of validation and confidence, ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle this.’♥️
We all do or say things we shouldn’t sometimes. This isn’t about breakage, it’s about being human. It’s about a brain that has registered ‘threat’, and a body that is getting ready to respond. 

‘Threat’ counts as anything that comes with any risk at all (real or perceived) of missing out on something important, separation from friends or you or their other important people, judgement, humiliation, failure, disappointment or disappointing their important people, unfairness or loss. It can also count as physical (sensory overload or underload, pain, exhaustion, hunger), or relational (not feeling seen or heard, not feeling valued, feeling replaced, not feeling welcome, feeling disconnected from you or someone important).

Young ones have the added force of nervous systems that haven’t got their full adult legs yet. When brains have a felt sense of threat, they will organise bodies for fight (this can look like tantrums, aggression, irritation, frustration), flight (can look like avoidance, ignoring, turning away) or freeze (can look like withdrawal, hiding, defiance, indifference, aloofness).

The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a brain that needs to be brought back to a felt sense of safety. We can do this most powerfully through relationship and connection. Breathe, be with, validate (with or without words - if the words are annoying for them just feel what they feel so they can feel you with them). 

When their brains and bodies are back to calm, then the transformational chats can happen: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can I do to help next time?’ ‘What can you do?’ ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. How can you put this right? Do you need my help with that?’

Of course, sometimes our boundaries will create a collision that also sets nervous systems on fire. You don’t need to fix their big feelings. They aren’t broken. Stand behind the boundary, flag the behaviour (‘It’s not ok to … I know you know that’) and then shift the focus to relationship - (‘I’m right here’ or, ‘Okay I can hear you want space. I’m going to stay right over here until you feel better. I’m here when you’re ready.’)♥️

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