A reader recently posed the question, "How do you let go of a 30 year relationship? It's not easy and where do you start?"
No matter how a long term relationship ended -- be it by divorce or by death -- you have an attachment to it. In the case of the former, it might be a negative attachment. In the case of the latter, it is probably a positive attachment.
In both instances, in order to move forward, it will be necessary to sever your attachment. This may seem harsh, especially if you loved your late spouse. However, taking this step is not the same as negating the relationship or "letting it go." In regard to widowhood, what you want to do is relocate the place your former relationship lives. It is no longer "front and center" but tucked away in a safe place in your heart. This is a place you can fondly visit, for example, when a memory comes up that reminds you of your late spouse. When you are able to think "relocation" instead of "letting go", guilt about moving forward in your life can be alleviated.
In the case of divorce, negative attachment can color your every thought and action going forward. It may stop you from trusting another partner and his/her actions; it can freeze your heart; it can make you bitter and angry. By accepting the fact that both you and your partner have human frailties that caused each of you to make mistakes, you can move closer towards forgiveness and even empathy for your former spouse. Think of forgiveness as a pair of scissors which you can use to cut the attachment.
In both scenarios, as you shed your attachment, you will notice a lighter feeling. Instead of expending energy on keeping these attachments intact, you can focus your attention on the concrete steps you can take to enhance your current life. This does require, however, a conscious decision to establish a new, healthy and happy life. It is, after all, your decision whether you want to remain mired in sadness, regret and negativity or to look for the joy in life and live in gratitude about what you do have rather than bemoan what you have lost -- be it a partner or perhaps years spend in unhappiness.
Now, don't get me wrong -- it is a lot easier to say all these things than to do them. It also requires time spent in introspective thought where you mourn your partner and the life you once knew AND then figure out the "new you" and what this "you" wants out of life.
In the next posting, I'll discuss how getting out of your comfort zone can help to move you forward.