Judith Viorst, in her book Necessary Losses, promoted the idea that the first half of life is about acquisition and the second half is about letting go.
Once the absolute shock of losing a loved one begins to fade, we may find ourselves buried in overwhelming paperwork, unsolicited advice and unwanted daily reminders of the life that is no more and can never be again.
We may have invested ourselves so completely for so long into building the life of our dreams, that the idea it could ever end is a harsh reality to face. We cry, we rage, we run from it until there is nowhere to hide. And suddenly we must courageously face the new normal we never wanted or saw coming.
When the dust settles and we can breathe again, there comes a time to take stock of what was left behind. We know in our deepest soul when it is time to let go. And that timing is different for everyone – so don’t feel rushed.
Loss is loss, whether by death or divorce. Last year I lost a lifelong best friend to cancer and my husband to divorce. Part of the grieving process is wondering if there was something I did or didn’t do that could have changed the outcome.
There is a slogan from Al-Anon (a support system for families of alcoholics in recovery) that says, “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it.” I may hate that, but it is true. Facing those facts means I’m moving forward alone.
The first feelings after terror and rage are probably going to be loneliness. It permeates every moment of every day for a while. Where we used to sit. What we ate together. How we laughed or cried or fought. But mostly, how we loved passionately enough and long enough to make this passage so unbearably miserable.
Letting go isn’t giving up. It isn’t a resigned, depressed, hopeless position. It is the way of strength, hope and renewal. Moving forward means evaluating the baggage around me and within me.
Is it the photo album you couldn’t bear to look at last year? Perhaps your trigger for tears is the furniture you so lovingly selected together? It may even be the home itself that was once your sanctuary but has felt more like an asylum lately. What about the wedding rings you thought you would wear forever?
We look around at the possessions that either don’t fit our new life, or intrusively remind us of our loss. There are some things we may never part with because the feelings they bring up are reminders of the love that will never die.
Other things may cause us to tense up and guard our hearts against further pain. Those are the things that must go. It is a harsh reality to be faced with possessions that hold constant painful reminders of what is no more and can never be again.
In fact, the more precious the dream was to us, the more painful the presence of those sentimental reminders can be. For me, it was the wedding rings. They had been stashed out of sight for some time, and brought anguish every time I looked at them. My practical side knew there was resale value in my jewelry, but how could I ever be expected to sell them without breaking down? I couldn’t imagine being able to objectively negotiate their worth.
Here’s a tip I stumbled on that I wish every woman with diamond wedding rings knew about. There is a website out there that is not a scam to help women like me resell fine jewelry (and no, I don’t get a spiff for recommending them). Worthy.com was respectful, honest and prompt in dealings and delivery of services before, during and after the sale. Start to finish it took only eight days and funded my travel for the rest of the year. It was a win-win.
My last step is to repurpose the smaller diamonds by gifting them to be reset for loved ones and finally to make a new wedding band for myself. One of the things I had to be 60 to learn was that I am the only one on this planet who will never leave me or forsake me.
With this ring, I me wed. I’m a keeper.
What advice would you give a friend who in the process of moving on after a divorce or death in the family? Have you entered the sorting phase after your loss yet? What were you able to let go of first? Do you wish you had done it sooner? Did letting go of stuff help you clear the emotional clutter too? Please join the conversation.