Navigating Guilt When We Let Go of Relationships


April 15, 2022

April 15, 2022

“I think about how you’ve been here before,” she said in all her wisdom. “You’re better now for having trusted yourself then.”

She was right, of course.

But that didn’t make the decision any easier.

I write a lot about letting go of the hands that held me in my memoir, Unravel, because it was such a big part of my healing process. Letting go of hands that couldn’t meet me in the depths of my grief and healing, that were uncomfortable or made my process wrong. Letting go of hands that needed me to be who I was before loss and trauma turned me inside out, an iteration of self I couldn’t access and roles I simply couldn’t fulfill anymore. And, of course, letting go of the hands I outgrew or no longer felt safe with in the aftermath of so much healing and growth.

Since writing my book, so many people have told me that they wish they had my ability to let go of the relationships that no longer serve me with ease.

Does it take courage? Absolutely.

Was it ever easy or easeful? No, it wasn’t.

And even though I’ve found less tension in the process of deciding when to release a relationship from my life, it’s still hard as hell to execute on.

I love deeply.

I’m grateful for every one of my relationships.

I want to support the people I love as much as I can.

The truth is, I have to navigate guilt every single time I let someone go.

I have to let go of feeling responsible for their experience or reaction, and I have to stop myself from caring for them at my own expense. I feel selfish, ungrateful, and like a horrible person who doesn’t deserve love.

Every time, but especially with certain relationships.

I know how much it hurts when someone decides they can’t have you in their life anymore, regardless of the reason or the relationship container.

I know how bad it feels when abandonment, rejection, and low self-worth get triggered by someone else’s decision to to walk away from me.

I know how hard it is to combat the core wound stories of not being lovable, good enough, worthy, or important in the aftermath of these endings.

I know.

And I still stand by the belief that someone choosing to end a relationship that’s no longer serving them—whatever the reason behind it may be—it’s the best thing for all parties involved. It doesn’t always feel that way. And it often doesn’t always feel that way for a good, long while. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

That also doesn’t mean it will be easy for anyone.

That doesn’t mean it’s without struggle, strain, or stories.

It just means that if someone no longer wants a relationship with us, as hard and hurtful as that can be, it’s better to let them go. When we can keep from taking it personally and making it mean things about us—when we can focus on the fact that all that happened is someone decided to end our relationship for reasons we may or may not understand—then we have an opportunity to invite fully aligned people in. We have a chance to discover entirely new levels of relationships.

“You’re better now for having trusted yourself then,” she said. “And think about the space it will open up for better things.”

People come to me for this reminder, yet I still need it, too.

Letting go is hard, friends.

And sometimes the heartbreak never leaves.

But that doesn’t make it wrong.

Discernment.

Very few people have the ability to say to someone else, “I hear that this isn’t serving you and that you need to let it go, I accept and respect that, even if it breaks my heart.” Most people will fight us, make us wrong, and believe that we’re an awful human for walking away.

If that’s their truth, that’s their truth.

Focus on yours. Focus on what’s best and right for you because I promise, even if they can’t see it, it’s what’s best and right for them as well.

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