I have always desired to have supportive and healthy relationships with the women in my family, but over and over I have been disappointed by their lack of nurturance and availability to be there when I really need them. Even though I am the youngest in the family, I have taken on more of a parental role through guidance, financial support at times, and emotional support. I don’t know if these significant relationships will change so I can finally get what I think I am missing in my life, but what I do know is that I have to let go of all the what could have been scenarios I anguish over. Sure, I pray and I always will have hope that the women in my family will someday be who I need them to be, but in the meantime, I must let go of all the regrets and disappointments I have in these relationships.
You may not be experiencing any relationships that you need to let go of, perhaps you need to let go of an unfulfilled dream, or that you missed out on many years with your prodigal child. As a mother of a prodigal child for many years, sometimes I go down the road of what could have been. I believe we all can go down that dark road of what could have been, but I tend to find if I park there, disappointment is soon followed by depression.
What I have finally realized is that in all the relationships and other parts of my life that I have had difficulty letting go of, was because I never grieved over the what could have been. I held onto these relationships and my unfulfilled dreams because I could not face the reality of them, it would hurt to much, but keeping them tucked deep in my heart where no one could see the hurt only intensified my pain.
Facing the reality of the situation is key to your healing. For many years, I did not face the reality of my circumstances and relationships because to do so would mean I had to face the truth about them and that is painful. This is not to say you don’t hope for better, but you don’t allow things you have no control over to keep you stuck.
Acceptance is another key to letting go of what could have been.Acceptance does not mean you just move on, but you do the healing work to cleanse your heart of pain caused by relationships or other issues from your life. Acceptance says, “I can’t change them but I can change me, or I can’t change my circumstances but I can change the way I view my circumstances.”
Another key to healing from letting go of what could have been is to properly grieve. Give yourself time to work through the stages of grief: denial, bargaining, depression, anger, and acceptance. You may not go through the stages of grief in any particular order and very possibly could experience several stages all at once. Many people never get to the place of doing the grief work because it is uncomfortable and involves a lot of work. The good news is if you invest in grief work, you will properly heal and be able to move forward in the new season in your life instead of staying stuck in grief. Grief can be masked through bouts of anger, irritablility, sarcasm, and negativity. Any major loss can be a source of grief.
Lastly, in healing from letting go of what could have been after you have faced the realty of your situation, accepted your situation and then properly done the grief work, you will need to retrain your thoughts from dwelling or ruminating on the what could have been. This will take discipline.
Letting go of the what could have been in life is not easy, it takes a conscious decision to face the truth and accept the reality of your life. Experts have found that when emotional pain prevents you from healing from a situation, it’s a sign that we are not moving forward, take the necessary steps and begin to heal so you can move forward.
Stephanie R. Reck, LMSW, LBT, BCCC
Founder of Hope Ministry
Hope Ministry, @2019
Author of, “Disciplining Your Mind 30 Days to a Better You!”