Last Saturday, my sister left.
It was a happy, good kind of leaving…
She rode away next to her husband, Aric, after a beautiful wedding and a day of celebrating with about three hundred friends and family.
I’ve known this “leaving” was coming for about six months.
Well, today, it sort of hit me that we are a household of seven now, not eight.
I cleaned my sister’s studio apartment this morning, and, honestly, I cried when I pulled the door closed on that now-empty little home.
After seven years of having my little sister around every day, our family is embracing a new dynamic.
A happy, healthy dynamic– both for her and for us.
But a new one, just the same.
And new things take time.
Time and processing.
And speaking of processing, you probably already know that I do a lot of that here on this blog.
If you’ll indulge me just a little today, I want to share some thoughts with you:
What it looks- and feels like- to live and love well when it’s time to let people you love move on with their lives.
For me, that person right now is my little sister.
For you, it may be a child or a dear friend.
Or maybe a loved one who has died, or even walked away from you (emotionally or physically).
Whatever your life season right now, there are three thoughts I want to share with you about living and loving well when you have to let go.
You may ask why am I bothering to write this post?
Well, like I said, I process a lot on this blog. Writing is one of the ways I process life.
Most of all, I’m writing this post (a.k.a. thinking out loud) because I want to avoid the mistake I see a lot of people make.
And I want you to avoid it too:
That is, clinging and hanging on when it’s time to let go.
- hanging on to a child who’s trying to grow up
- hanging on to a family member who’s trying to grow/change/move on
- hanging on to hurts
- hanging on to a lost love or loved one
I’ve seen well-meaning people do a lot of damage– to themselves and their loved ones- by emotionally clinging when it’s time to release.
Sometimes, we love and live best when we let go.
While you’re letting go, remember to do these three things:
Own the emotions.
This morning, I sat on the swing in our back yard and just let the emotions surface to the top and spill out a little.
As they did, so did the tears.
They weren’t really sad tears.
Just liquid emotions.
My sister and I have been through a lot together- everything from happy childhood memories to difficult growing pains as adult women.
We’ve hurt together.
Gotten angry together.
Grown and healed together.
And, in this last season of our lives, we’ve grown apart a little.
That was okay, because she was making room in her life for a very special man.
(I had to help my kids work through this too, when they sensed the changes. Kids are smart!)
And today I just sat and owned the feelings and the friendship.
The emotions sort of overwhelmed my heart, but it was gratitude- not sadness- that overtook me.
I’m so thankful for my sister, and for all that God has done in our lives.
But for me, processing emotions- even good ones!- can feel heavy.
Maybe it’s part of my complicated INTJ personality, but I much prefer tasks over feelings.
Instead of stuffing the feelings and getting lost in busyness- as I would have done in my younger days- I let myself feel the emotions.
It’s a beautiful and necessary part of living and loving well.
Letting go is a natural part of life.
This is something I am telling my kids a lot these days.
Most of my five kids can hardly remember life before Aunt Julie lived with us.
Some of them are quite upset that she “left us,” and all five of them are missing her a lot.
There have been loads of tears, and I’m sure there will be more.
Jeremy and I are making emotional space in our home for our kids to process this change.
But at the same time I keep gently reminding them:
It’s natural and healthy for Aunt Julie to get married and move on with her life.
We love her, but we don’t own her.
This is a really important thing for all of us to remember when it comes to letting go:
And that is simply, we have to.
We have to let go.
In our case, it’s a happy, celebratory letting go.
When my MeMe went to Heaven last August, it was a grieving kind of letting go.
But both ways, we had do it.
Letting go is part of life.
We can fight it, or we can embrace it.
When we embrace it, we are choosing to love the other person well.
Because love is free.
Free to go on with life.
Free to move on, even free to die when it’s time.
We can’t control life, or the people in it.
Forward is the only way to go.
This is where my innate strength comes in:
I am always looking forward, and wanting to move in that direction.
There have been plenty of times in my life when I’ve have to realize that the most productive step I can take is to stop and deal with my baggage.
But this time, I’m looking forward.
- Forward to my daughter starting high school this fall.
- Forward to teaching my sweet twelve-year old the ropes of getting her new blog off the ground.
- Forward to growing into new capacities/responsibilities at our church.
- Forward to the happiness that I know my sister will cultivate in her new life as a wife.
- Forward to the ways we will continue to grow and learn together- albeit miles apart- as sisters and friends.
Any time we experience a letting go, God is there, ready to pour in grace.
That grace enables us to live abundantly in the moment, let go of the past (the good and the bad) and look with hope toward the future.
When we cling instead of let go, we close our hearts and hands.
We lose out on the abundant grace.
Without God’s grace, we’re not really equipped to handle the changes life throws at us with maturity or resilience.
If I’m not moving forward- or pressing pause in order to process, heal and grow- then I’m probably “stuck.”
Emotionally crippled people are really the only people who can’t keep moving forward.
Healthy people love, let go, and keep looking to the future with hope and faith.
Forward really is the only way to go.
Here’s to living & loving well-