Divorce is FUN, said no one. Not only can it leave you feeling heartbroken at the loss of your ex, but reeling in anger, sadness, and hurt, saddled with resentment and the belief that love is hard, and worried that your best days are behind you.
If that’s where you’re at, I get you. I was there, struggling to move forward after leaving a man I deeply loved. He was a good guy who just didn’t want marriage like I did. And so, after 12 years together, at the ripe old age of 41 I finally realized he was never going to change his mind. I could no longer ignore the truth of our situation. My choice: To keep hanging on for dear life, hoping he’d miraculously decide he couldn’t live one more day without marrying me. (And yes, I realize that marriage isn’t everything but I wanted to experience it; and no, I haven’t missed the irony that most of you reading this are dancing with divorce right now …)
Or, I could let go of him.
I chose to let go. And while that freed me to find the love and commitment I wanted in the long term, in the short term it left me newly single and terrified of the future, glued to the sofa and Lifetime Television, addicted to pizza, and wrestling with…
the logistics of starting my life over in a new city, because I knew that if I stayed in the city I’d shared with my ex, it would be too tempting to go back to him and the familiarity of a relationship that was safe, but not right for me…
limiting beliefs that told me I was too old to start over, too out of shape to compete with the twenty-somethings I was convinced men my age wanted, and too imperfect to be lovable…
the idea that I might not be worthy of love again, or that it was even possible; that I was destined to grow old and die alone.
I had a lot to let go – beyond just my ex. But doing so saved me. It allowed me to release the hard emotions, limiting beliefs, and self-fulfilling prophecies that would have otherwise doomed me to a relationship that would never serve me. Or, repeating the mistakes that got me where I didn’t want to go in the first place.
Letting go not only had me gain 12 pounds (okay, 15), it also showed me the way out of a life I didn’t want, and propelled me forward, with purpose and intention, towards a life that I did.
Now, let’s talk about you. Where are you when it comes to letting go and pushing forward in your own life? If you’re struggling like I was, you should know that you’re not alone. I’ve talked to countless women who’ve reached out to me for advice after watching my TEDx talk called “The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go” about what it takes to let go of an ex, situation, belief, emotion, or lifestyle as a result of a breakup.
Like Jess, who had to let go after her husband died in a motorcycle crash and, after doing so, went on to find love again with a wonderful man she met through her church. Or, Janet. She let go of her first husband after a dark night of the soul, when a voice inside of her told her to either let go or kill herself. Fortunately, she chose the former. Or Elisa who, like me, spent more years than she should have (twenty in her case) with the wrong person, and finally mustered up the courage and confidence to take the biggest risk of her life and let go. Her goal? To find love again with someone else, of course. But first, through freedom, solitude, and self-discovery, to find the self she’d long lost in choosing to settle for what just wasn’t working.
These women, and so many others, have basked in the light at the end of the tunnel after choosing to bet on themselves, and let go for what they longed for the most. And you can too.
On their Breaking Free podcast, Susan, Rebecca and I had a great conversation about what it takes to let go successfully. Because the truth is that it’s one thing to let go of old shoes or furniture, but letting go of people, hard emotions, beliefs about what’s possible or what we deserve is decidedly more difficult.
It’s also infinitely possible, as long as you are willing to acknowledge that to improve your external reality, you need to improve your internal reality first. That involves a lot of self-love by way of self-examination, with the goal of getting out of your own way. And it starts with understanding the beliefs that are driving your choices. Then, reframing or eliminating them in a way that gives you the courage and confidence you need to take the risks necessary to let go for what you truly want.
Because letting go of something or someone that once had value involves risk. After all, there are no guarantees that if you let go—of a person, place, thought, or thing—that you’ll actually recover from it, or find what or who it is you’re looking for. That very fact is, indeed, what often keeps us stuck. Susan and Rebecca said they see that every single day with their mediation clients – and I see it too, with the women I coach.
And yet, when you love yourself enough (and I’m talking self-love with intention and not just self-care), you know that you owe it to yourself to try. Doing so will give you the sense of safety you need to move forward with boldness —to take a chance and let go for the life and love you want. Grounded in the knowledge that whatever happens, you’ll always be okay. Because you’ve got you.
And you are not only resilient, powerful, and deserving, you’re also awesome.
That’s precisely how I did it. Cultivating that kind of “Big Wild Love” for myself was the foundation on which I was able to make better choices, and build a new life. The one I always wanted, but used to believe was out of reach. Which, of course, was part of the problem.
So where can you begin? On Susan and Rebecca’s podcast I shared the multi-step process I created to get from point A to point B. Whether you’re contemplating divorce, in the midst of one, or trying to recover your way back to the self you might have lost, this approach will help you get where you want to go. It will call on you to love yourself most and first. To invite in epiphany, spend time in your feelings, identify what you want and how you’ll get it, uncover the things you’re holding onto that are keeping you stuck, and cull it all together into a workable and documented strategy for forging ahead with clarity and gusto.
I moved through these steps in my own life to not only let go of my ex, but all the other stuff that held me captive, and kept me in mental, physical, and emotional quicksand. In doing so, I was ultimately able to find the healthy relationship I always wanted with not only the guy I was meant to be with–the one who didn’t know how to iron his shirts but sure knew how to give and receive healthy love wholly and completely–and, most importantly, with myself.
Listen, I’m not going to tell you that letting go is always easy. But, if you want a life you can feel good about, it’s a skill worth honing. With one caveat: There are no magic bullets. Letting go successfully requires you to go deep, which isn’t always fun or simple. But if you commit to doing the work, walking tall through the hardest parts of the journey of self-discovery, and to the idea that letting go is never a one-time deal (since life is always offering up opportunities for old wounds to call us home, requiring us to let go of the same things sometimes over and over again), I promise you: It will not only be worth it, it will be transformational.
Jill Sherer Murray is a TEDx Speaker, award-winning journalist, and author of the forthcoming book Big Wild Love: The Indestructible Power of Letting Go, which will be published in May 2020. Her TEDx Talk called “The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go” has been viewed by more than 1.2 million people, and grows by thousands each day. Learn more about her at www.letgoforit.com, and follow her at @letgoforit on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and Jill Sherer Murray on LinkedIn.