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The Greatest Act of Love Is Letting Go

Let Go

“Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be.” ~Sonia Ricotti

I was brought up in a family and culture that was riddled with fear.

My elders were terrified of the world and always on the defensive for something bad to happen. They believed that love meant closely protecting others from the dangers of the world and the pain of life.

This smothering behavior kept me small, and left me totally ill-equipped and ill-educated for living in the real world.

With this as the root of my upbringing, breaking free and learning to let go has been one of the hardest, but most important lessons of my life.

In my early teens I was sent to boarding school, and in the freedom of it I discovered I was naturally far more open, trusting, and relaxed. I liked it!

However, after a very difficult period of my life—my mum was ill with cancer and then I went through a series of painful losses, including the sudden death of some of my closest loved ones—I got very afraid.

Bad things had happened and I felt blindsided. Lacking the appropriate resources to cope with it, I began to live as I had been shown: I began to hold on to everything, especially my grief.

I would cling to relationships, jobs, and situations, even if they were outdated, no longer useful or right for me. I couldn’t let myself grow, or outgrow things.

Somewhere along the way I began to believe that I was bad for wanting to be free, and that bad things happen to bad people.

Turning Into Golem

Desperately, I held onto the love, light, and energy that I had inside of me, unwilling to share it with anyone, in case I lost that too.

I changed from a bouncy, smiley, fun-loving young woman to someone who hid in the corners seething.

It was as though I was curling up in a ball so that I could protect myself from the world and anything bad happening.

Although I saved myself from getting hurt by other people, ironically I was still hurting and afraid, but now nothing happened at all—not even the good stuff!

Eventually I had enough. I wasn’t living…

Time To Set Myself Free

For years I reflected, analyzed, and most of all grieved for the losses I had been holding onto, until finally the crying began to subside and I felt lighter, softer, and more relaxed.

I’d changed, but every time I began to try to live as the open me, I felt like I was running into a brick wall. The people in my life weren’t willing to see, hear, and accept the new, stronger, trusting me.

It was a huge revelation to realize it wasn’t about me anymore; it was about them.

But I was back in my childhood situation, smothered by other people’s fear of being free and strong.

For a while I fell into the old game of fighting against other people, trying to change them, and waiting for them to let go, stop being so scared, and be happy so I could have permission to be free.

I soon began to feel the familiar feeling of exhaustion from this futile exercise.

Finally Growing Up

At age 37 I realized that I could do something different. Just as I’d let go of my bottled grief and fear, I gave myself permission to let me go and take what I needed the most—the space to be free.

I turned my internal growth into external action—an act of love for myself.

It was time to give myself room to grow and discover strength, confidence, resilience, and trust—so I packed my bags, rented out my house, and set off on a road trip, with just my dog for company, and headed off toward Italy.

I gave myself six months, but it turned out I only needed three. I didn’t know what would happen to me, but I desperately hoped something would!

Like reaching the next level on computer game, new growth gives way to new challenges. We just have to be willing to accept these opportunities.

Letting go is not a one-stop shop, with a final destination, but a constant state of being.

As I began my 7000-mile quest into the big wide world to find freedom and return home again, I felt full of fear. But my anticipation and desire outweighed it, so I simply surrendered with one prayer in mind: Please give me what I need.

Am I Good Enough?

I had to let go of my deep-rooted fear that I wasn’t capable of coping with life and taking care of myself, even when the worst happened.

That meant facing situations that would make me quake in my boots, like getting completely lost on foot, with no phone, no map, and no water in the middle of rural central France.

I simultaneously faced my ingrained fear of leaving, and trusted that that everyone and everything would be okay without me. Nothing bad would happen, and if it did, it wasn’t my fault. Everyone would be all right and so would I.

Both fears were interlinked, and by releasing one, I could also release the other.

Only then did I begin to accept that other people have the capability to take care of themselves too, and that loving them means trusting that they can work it out.

If you truly love someone, you want them to be the strongest, bravest, most happy, confident version of themselves so they don’t need you to protect them, because they are then free to live.

Sometimes we need to teach others the skills to be able to cope with situations, people, and life, but demonstrating it by the way we live is a far more effective method.

Ultimately, though, we must let go, trust, and believe in them and ourselves in order to become stronger, more resilient, and more capable.

The Greatest Act Of Love Is Letting Go

For me, that had to start with letting go of controlling myself, my feelings, and my past pain, and then allowing myself to let go of how other people’s fear controlled me.

Throughout my journey I began to relax more and more into life and simply be me. This opened me up to connecting with amazing people from all over the world.

I began to hear their words of love and see myself through their eyes as a bubbly, passionate, fun, loving, open, brave woman.

By the time I returned home three months later, I was living lovingly toward me, so confident in who I had become that I was no longer afraid of losing those closest to me.

I didn’t need to control or be controlled anymore, under the disguise of loving protection. I was now strong enough to trust myself no matter what.

That’s why letting go is the greatest act of love. It’s letting others be free.

Photo by Katia Romanova

Avatar of Joanna Warwick

About Joanna Warwick

Jo Warwick is a writer, therapist and the creator of www.rediscoverthemagic.com. She is passionate about empowering women to love themselves and be free. Go grab your free copy of Don’t Screw It Up ~ Top Ten Ways To Create A Relationship That’s Just Right For You.

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  • Anonymous Account

    Can I borrow a house to rent? Also if you could buy me several months’ worth of medications, that would come in handy. BTW, does anybody ever become homeless from this? Just checking, because I don’t want to be homeless.

  • Anonymous Account

    I’m sorry, it’s just that this is being presented as advice, but the actual plan of attack (so effective that the writer was able to cut it in half) is so wildly beyond out of reach for most people that I expected to at least see ab acknowledgment of that fact somewhere. I apologize if I missed it.

  • Aretha

    Great Article! I can relate in so many ways. Very helpful and insightful. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Anon

    “If you truly love someone, you want them to be the strongest, bravest, most happy, confident version of themselves so they don’t need you to protect them, because they are then free to live.” That seems so simple, yet so true! If we had truly heard is sooner, it could maybe have saved my marriage…

  • A.Chavez

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS!! I can relate so much to all of this! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • U

    Thank you for writing this. I am in a strange situation in my life where I want to be this woman (maybe not seething) – “I changed from a bouncy, smiley, fun-loving young woman to someone who hid in the corners seething.
    It was as though I was curling up in a ball so that I could protect myself from the world and anything bad happening.”

    But I can’t. I am trying desperately to lose my faith on love but I just can’t. I am 25 and most of my adulthood I have loved people (And it is not just attachment!) for years, giving every bit of myself into my relationships and have been let down/abandoned by the same people and yet I do not give up to be a bouncy, smiley, fun loving young woman with a big open heart, open to new experiences, but guess what? Every time I have been let down. And when I say I am trying to get closed off, I may sound silly but I feel only that can sort me out – And I really think (I am speaking for myself) that detachment to an extent comes from being closed off from people more than compassion in the world we are living in today.

  • Joanna Warwick

    Thank you Aretha for you kind words…

  • Joanna Warwick

    Dear Anon, I wish you the strength to move forward and love yourself in this way, so you can show someone else how to love you freely…x

  • Joanna Warwick

    Thank you – its a pleasure x

  • Michelle

    What a deep discussion, Joanna. Really important stuff here. This is my favorite bit, I think:

    “I’d changed, but every time I began to try to live as the open me, I felt like I was running into a brick wall. The people in my life weren’t willing to see, hear, and accept the new, stronger, trusting me. It was a huge revelation to realize it wasn’t about me anymore; it was about them.”

    It speaks to where I am right now because I, too, am changing the way I interact with the world pretty radically. And as a recovering people-pleaser, my modus operandi is to be constantly on the lookout for ways that things could be (in my mind, probably are) MY fault. Or at least my issues to work on.
    It’s tremendously liberating to realize that sometimes it really, truly **is** about the other person. I may or may not be able to do anything about a particular situation…but to understand that it’s not my fault or problem feels amazing. This kind of letting go is difficult for me because it’s still so new, but I can already taste the empowerment it brings.

  • Joanna Warwick

    Hey U, I think understand… sometimes our journey is dramatic and we have to lose ourselves completely to find our true self and sometimes we just need to learn to put a bit more space between ourselves and other people – that’s not about closing off, just about distance and recognizing that we are all individual and have separate journeys… that to fully abandon ourselves in love with others, we must be able to abandon to ourselves first, so we know where we end and other people begin and respect that difference and individuality. Otherwise we can just end up off balance merging and smothering into the other person, which can leave them feeling over whelmed. Find yourself and then you can stay centered and complete in who you are, as well as fully open to love and not disappear into someone else…Jox

  • Joanna Warwick

    Thanks Michelle, its so great to hear your awareness in separating and realizing that the world doesn’t actually revolve around just you and therefore it is not all your fault or responsibility – a team thing with many parts and everyone in it is responsible for their own piece of the pie…When I realized it wasn’t all about me – I had to face the scary truth thought that it meant I wasn’t in control of everything either – so I couldn’t solve or fix anyone else’s problems or learn their lessons for them…which was difficult because it meant I had to learnt to trust that they could sort it for themselves…it does take the weight off though when I finally could be OK with it! xx

  • erick trammel

    A beautiful, inspirational story! Thank you!

  • growthguided

    This was such a great post for me today! Thank you for taking the time to put this vulnerability together for us Joanna!

  • mymisadventuresthroughlife

    Thank you for sharing, it inspired and motivated me that I’m on the right track and i should keep going no matter what. For almost half of my life my family especially my Mom sheltered me from what is and what will be. I was so naive and everytime I showed my vulnerable part of me, people seem to have diffrent reactions.

    I used to think loving someone means that you should stay even you’re both hurting each other, then one day I was at the end of my rope and left. It was painful and I’m still in the healing process and to be honest I still love him but I can’t make him stay if he doesn’t want to. I’ve got to live life and every morning I choose to live the life no matter it’s weather takes me, it’s ebbs and flows.

  • Joanna Warwick

    Thank you – my pleasure..

  • Joanna Warwick

    Even though this may seem hard for you at this time, you actions came from a place of love – love of you and him… Love is not painful and is not supposed to hurt you… it may challenge you – yes but suffering no. You and he deserve to be loved as complete beautiful capable beings and respected for your capacity to love and grow… so keep going and keep trusting in love to bring you to your greatest happiness…x

  • Joanna Warwick

    my pleasure…x

  • JuliBee

    I read that the greatest gift of love a mother can give is to let go. My daughter doesn’t want me in her life, and therefore I have lost her and my granddaughter. The pain is excruciating. I have written to her heart filled and soul bearing letters, given countless sorrys, and to no avail. I can’t live like this, broken heart , spirit and soul. So…I need to let go to protect me?

  • Joanna Warwick

    Dear Julie, I’m sorry to hear your pain… all I can say is that sometimes we need to have real separation and time apart to come back together. Try to have faith in love and in your daughter that she will find her way back to you when she is ready – until now respect her decision… that is a great act of love that you could show her…
    Love is not given to be received …xx

  • Talya Price

    I think that by letting go what doesn’t work for you anymore, you grow more as a person. Some people don’t want to let go, they are still holding on to the past. Let go of the past, learn from it and move on. Great article.

  • JoJOe

    Eat, Drink and Pray I have a place to sleep
    This blog, though helpful. Does put most of us out of reach of this adventure.
    However, the idea is to develop a sense of confident independence was surely accomplished, kudos !
    To those who can’t let go by taking off, I suggest you all take a walk.
    That’s right, start with a little walk everyday. I started with 1 KM now I do 7 KM’s everyday.
    Actually I started to jog some of them. The surprise came when people started to say “HI”
    Why, because they saw me everyday. Cars on the road now give a honk and wave.
    I started getting in shape and meeting people. I found the art of letting go by moving forward. As we all must, but the actual physicality of it was an enormous help.
    I also have sometime to work things out in my mind. Allowing and accepting all thoughts whether negative or positive.
    I was letting go of many things and filling them with new things.
    I found that if you’re busy in the present you have little time for the past.
    Infact if the past walked in right now. I’d have to say. “Geesh, surprise, surprise, but I have no time, I’m doing this right now.”
    Infact by filling my life with things to distract me from reminiscing. I have little time to think of the past. I think today and if these things add to my tomorrows, better still.
    Busy… busy! stay busy!

  • Nicole Martin

    I totally enjoyed the truth in your tale, Joanna, for only love can be so giving. A person
    trapped in a stagnant relationship is like a wild bird put in a cage. Its natural response will be to take flight at the first opportunity, to find its freedom again. To let go because you know
    that both you and people in your life need the space to grow, is indeed the greatest proof of love you can give to yourself and others. How beautiful and brave a person, that can act with such grace, in the name of freedom.

    Bravo, Joanna, and thank you for being such a reminder.

  • Joanna Warwick

    Thank you Nicole for your kind words – yes the greatest proof of love, but absolutely does take bravery…x

  • Joanna Warwick

    Thank you for your great suggestion of walking – I would agree that walking and being outside it excellent for finding oneself and the big adventure i took was the result of the smaller adventures I took everyday exploring inwards and outwards through walking. I have written many time on TB about the different phases of my journey of self discovery, which we all have to take – and can be at different phases – this was the last part …. I would however disagree with staying busy – there comes a point that we must reflect, slow down and go inside to grow… it is about balance – the middle path as Buddha described it…xx

  • http://piercingthebubble.com/ Bethany @ Piercing the Bubble

    Thank you for sharing this. Letting go and surrendering to what is, has been very difficult (but rewarding!) for me. It’s hard not to have our hands in everything, but when we let go and accept what is going on and changing, life becomes much more bearable.

  • lv2terp

    Powerful post!! Thank you for sharing your journey, and insight! I have been on this same path, and this has opened my understanding even more, thank you so much!! The tastes of freedom I, and others have already felt, has been a true gift and validation that I’m on the right path. So beautiful and grateful to read this today! Happy Thanksgiving!! :-)

  • lv2terp

    I love this!! :-) Well said “so we know where we end and other people begin and respect that difference and individuality.” powerful! :-)

  • Anna Puchalski

    Beautiful, just beautiful! I remember three years ago when I began my journey of improving an issue with codependency, a phrase I went back to was “Confidence is freedom”. With calling on courage to be open and vulnerable it creates stronger connections with others around us since we are doing it authentically. And can understand that is where others are coming from also, and that we all have ours struggles, strengths, and so forth.

    I enjoyed the idea of trusting others enough to be on their journey and trusting yourself enough to be feel free. I am grateful for connecting with this piece today, thank you Joanna!

  • Cliffy

    Utterly beautiful. Thank you.

  • Teiti

    Thank you for this. Really needed this today.