What I Know about Letting Go; Sometimes You have to Hold On

With permission I wanted to share my response to this email.

Dear Cordelia Hart,

You probably get a million of these emails all the time, but I am writing you because I am just in the worst place right now. I feel like I have the world’s hugest broken heart, and I’m constantly fighting it, day after day.

My love story, if it were still intact, was truly a fairy tale. I reconnected with my best friend from middle school, our friendship picked up where it left off, we decided to date four months later, and eventually he quit his job to move and be with me I the town where I am finishing school. He got here, struggled to find a job, realized he still had a lot of self-searching to do. He left this town, and left me.

It is incredibly hard to let go. I feel like I have never seen you posts your heartbreaks publicly online. Since I have been following you on social media, you say a few beautiful things here and there that allude to a break up but you always seem so reserved. I want to be graceful like you. I feel like on your Tumblr you have written something that explains how to pick up the pieces. And if you could somehow help me, I would really appreciate it. Because I am just a horrible wreck right now.

With gratitude,

L

I don’t want to come across as a writer or an advice columnist. Instead, I am writing you as the girl who fell in love with a guy she only knew for a month as they played a game of Monopoly on the floor of the Sunflower Inn with cheap alcohol one summer day. I am writing you as the girl who thought she could give someone a tie-a dumb tie- so that she could call him up from time to time and ask if he was still taking care of that tie. And if it has changed his life yet. I guess she thought maybe that was the way to tie herself to people like him forever. I am writing you as the girl, that although our love stories have been different, a girl who has been in your shoes.

People will preach and sing the verse: they aren’t worth the tears. Let them go.

YOU are worth your tears and you don’t have to let them go right away.

By merely saying that they aren’t worth your tears is kind of a punch to the gut for all of us humans. To not be worthy of someone’s emotions, good or bad- what is the point of life if we can’t feel? You are not just crying over that person, you are purifying your body and you are recognizing that you had the ability to love and care so deeply for something or someone. If that isn’t one of the most beautiful things we could cry over, then I don’t know what is. They matter, and they still might do matter, allow yourself to feel that. Don’t do an injustice to what you had by shoving the memories into a break up box and letting it go.

It took time to fall in love, and now it is going to take time to heal.

You don’t have to let him go until you are the ready one.

For the longest time it hurt more to try and let go than holding on. Maybe that is stupid, and you are reading this with your best girl friend and she is advising you on how ridiculous I am to tell you to hold on, but I am going to be transparently human with you. He was every bit of “I want to put you inside of a box and keep you there forever and believe we will never need to change. That’s where I want you to stay.” When they told me to let him go, I wasn’t ready. At the urgency of others though, I didn’t cry over him and I tried to forget him. And it took me airfare across the world and a year worth of having patience within myself to realize that the Wednesday afternoon when I ended things with him wasn’t the time to let him go.

I did all the basics. I got rid of his Facebook. Deleted his number. Got rid of his clothes. But guess what darling, those small actions of creating empty space are not how you let someone go. They are merely small steps. And sure those small steps have their own equal level of devastation but the real work, where you will be knee deep in mud and tears is how you are going to compose a song out of all the broken music note inside of you.

I too kept memories of him tucked away in my favorite hoodie that I wore when we went camping together. I would turn on “our song” just to cry and feel something. I convinced myself I didn’t deserve to feel anything because I was the one who ended things. We made a ridiculous marriage bucket list, complete with what we would name our kids, and I kept it- it was one of the only things I kept of him. I carried thoughts of him, wonderful and bad with me. To coffee shops. To used book stories. To Cambodia. To the bottom of the ocean floor when I went scuba diving.
 

There was something liberating about realizing that I didn’t have to let him go right now. I could privately hold on and grieve the end of a relationship for as long as I needed.

Maybe in this age of social media and open diaries privately grieving is something that we don’t give enough credit to. We are quick to get the first blow in so that we seem stronger and more in control. We become people that we aren’t in nature by taking the public forum that we have been given to express hate and bitterness. I don’t publicly humiliate my heartbreaks because what good is that going to do? To have remnants of my saddest days haunting me and painting an incomplete picture of who I am, no way. We have to show more grace. To ourselves and to those who we once loved. We are all trying and learning and its pretty how we stumble along the way, but what makes it beautiful is how we apologize when we make someone stumble because of us.

Eventually my fists would grow tired from all the holding on, and I would let go.

It would happen naturally. Though I could never control all the left hand turns I wanted him to take when we went right. Loving him, and learning how to unlove him in a way that made me saner, was in my control.

And suddenly the beginning of letting go would come one humid night whilst sitting on my door step in Cambodia trying to connect to the hotel’s wifi that was next to me when an email would pop up:

They told me you were in Cambodia. It makes me happy to know you are out there helping others and sharing yourself with the world.  

You will read it, smile at the fact that he didn’t lose your email, and tuck the email away from a later response. Except for that response could never happen because you no longer have the need to use your most beautifully crafted words to try and change things. You’ll find yourself on your campus walking home, as a song that you haven’t heard in a while and it doesn’t break you. Instead it allows you to write one last letter to him, the most honest one you have ever written, and then you understand that you are ready to let go, because you have finally thanked him for all you have learned and gained.

You will reach the point in your days where you wish them light and love, thank them for the time you spent together, because it was beautiful and we shouldn’t down play that just because things ended differently, and then let them go. And these moments are not complimented with hurt, questions, or a painful quest of closure.

It will be the same hands that held on that will open up and touch others by the handfuls. Trust me.

Someone once told me, “You get to decide if you want to be the empty cup that needs refilling or the full pitcher that overflows into all the other cups. This is on you,” and now I am telling you.

When I finally opened up my hands and my heart it was all there waiting for me. Thoughts of him are far and few in between now of day. When I do think about him I think about how much light and love I filled him with and how he wasn’t ready to fill the empty spaces just yet, however I only wish that he still had that contagious laugh that could make anyone want to fall in love with him. I stopped regretting how we broke. And I recognize that I am standing. Taller, wiser and more capable of loving than ever before.

But it takes time.

It takes time to open your hands.

You are going to get there.

Cordelia Hart

PS. This is the post L was referring to about picking up the pieces.
PSS. This is the open letter that made me realize I was ready to open my hands and heart