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Forgive So That You Can Let Go

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” ~Paul Boese

I have been heart-broken far longer than I think anyone should ever be.  When my relationship ended, like a rock star, I blazed through the “mourning period” and bypassed the “become a new person” phase, then promptly got completely lost.

I kept busy; went out with friends, watched movies, learned to cook, and invested in retail therapy. But I never actually let go. I felt it was impossible to move on. It’s been three years.

At my worst, I’d remember moments with vivid intensity. Real moments like the way my arm felt draped across his chest at night and imaginary ones of an alternate reality where we were still together. Truly believing that my happiness was intertwined in that relationship, I was certain that he would come back.

To pass the time I dated casually, but no one measured up; and I chased away the ones who did by placing them in the shadow of someone who could do no wrong.

I looked for fulfillment in other areas of my life. My love of the outdoors led me to a 42km (25 mile) hike along the Inca Trail, where I touched a piece of history at Machu Picchu.

And the traveling didn’t stop there. I ran around the world to: China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, England, France, Bonaire, and Jamaica; trading my savings account for experiences that I hoped would fill a void (the size of which I had severely underestimated).

My friends were jealous, because on Facebook I looked like I had conquered the world, or at the very least seen most of it. (I’ve actually only seen 5%, but who’s counting?)

I had created a facade of the perfect life.

I ate delicious food, met wonderfully interesting people, and roamed around soaking in the beauty of the world.

But I was alone. Sure, there was a part of me that embraced the Eat, Pray, Love adventure, and I knew that had I not been heart-broken I would still be at my boring 9-5 job (of course I’d also be generating income). But it was hard to experience the new and have no one to marvel at it with.

I happened to be in China during the Lotus festival, and one night while sitting on my hotel rooftop, the sky lit up with thousands of floating lanterns—a perfect unexpected moment.

The couple next to me hugged each other a little tighter, and for moment I felt a pang of jealousy knowing that one day she would say “Remember when we were sitting by the pool in China and the sky lit up with lanterns?” And he would.

I spent a lot of time flip-flopping between vengeful thoughts of, “If he hadn’t left me he would’ve witnessed the magic I just did,” to wishing that he and I were the very couple sitting beside me.

There is a scene in Eat, Pray, Love the movie, where James Franco’s character is on the phone with Julia Roberts and she asks him what took so long. He says, “If I didn’t call, then we were still having a conversation and I was still in it.”

Like James Franco, I wasn’t ready to admit that the relationship was over. I wasn’t ready to forgive him for hurting me. Moreover I wasn’t ready for the gut-wrenching pain that comes with the end of a relationship.

For three years time stood still. I had failed to see that the pure and simple love, which we once had, had dissipated long ago; my mind was tricky that way, only remembering the love.

All I have ever wanted was to be happy, and yet for three years I stood in my own way by not letting go.

I had to forgive him for hurting me, but I also had to give myself a break and realize I am only human. I make mistakes, but I still deserve love. Only in coming to those conclusions was I able to let my guard down, let go of the past, and truly enjoy the company of someone new.

I have yet to fall in love again, but for first time in years it’s not out of my realm of possibility. Happiness is always standing by, ready to embrace us. We just have to be open and willing to receive it.

Photo here

About Jamie Hoang

Jamie Hoang is a Los Angeles based writer, designer, world traveler, tea drinker and lover of the great outdoors. A firm believer in trying everything at least once, she's always learning. Her work can be found at heyjamie.com or tweeting as @heyjamie.

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  • Liane

    Thank you for sharing this great story! How liberating it must feel to be where you are now. For me, the forgiveness needed to occur within a still existing relationship. I was living in past hurt as if he was still hurting me. And he wasn’t. How great it feels to join the present moment and be happy! Good luck to you in connecting with someone new…

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  • Vincent

    Amy, give me a call- I may be the one you are looking for! Love, Vincent

  • BBM

    this is such a wonderful post and it resonates immensely with what i’m going through at the present moment. thanks for sharing!

  • Cy

    This article was illuminating, Jamie… How did you come to realize you hadn’t forgiven your ex/yourself? I think I may be in a similar place emotionally (it sure explains why I’ve thrown myself so fully into my work and keep turning away nice guys who might have been good boyfriends if I’d only given them a chance). But if that really is the case, it’s been going on for what MUST be an extremely unhealthy amount of time (10 years?? Geez…). I didn’t think I still cared about this person, but it’s true that we can’t seem to speak normally when we see each other, and I do seem to shy away from thinking of this person at all if possible (even 10 years later… my god, I think I AM still hung up over it). How on earth do I go about “forgiving” myself and the other person in this case? How can I even get past this?

  • Modnmod

    Thank you, thank you, thank youuuuuuuuu for this post! Thanx a lot..it made my day..thanx!

  • llynnd

    Hard part is to forget. I did forgive.

  • Taylorferri

    Absolutely loved this post. Beautifully written, speaks to the heart.

  • Heyjamie

    I knew I hadn’t forgiving myself but every time I thought about that relationship my mind seemed only to highlight what I did wrong. For some reason I held that relationship in higher regard than I did myself. When I look around at the world I have created for myself, in my work, family and friends, it is undeniable that these relationships thrive because of who I am. Trust that you are worth more than a failed relationship, because you are. For me, forgiving him meant letting go of the idea of a happily ever after with this person. I can’t tell you how to do that, bc it’s different for everyone, but I can tell you that when you do, you’ll feel it deeply.

  • I almost wish I couldn’t relate to this beautiful article above, but I can. Thank you so much for writing it.

  • Great article! I’m in the process of letting go also. Only way to set myself free and be ready to love and be loved. Cheers!

  • Fleura

    I was with someone I loved deeply for two and a half years and we had planned on traveling the world together. Through dishonesty (most on my part) and insecurity/controlling behavior (his part) the relationship failed horribly. It’s been over 7 months & I’ve never felt I’ve had ‘closure’ per se, no “Just didn’t work out, take care of yourself” conversation occurred, all though he did reach out to me a month afterward but at that time i was distracted by a new crush (big mistake) and truly felt his behavior was too irrational and aggressive for me to be in any contact with him. After his several failed attempts at reaching out to me (eventually they became somewhat verbally abusive; he pulled out every stop to get to me) he tried hurting himself and landed in the hospital & I never went & saw him (I felt the co-dependant cycle needed to stop.) Hard to forgive myself for that thought at the time I felt it was the right thing to do. In 5 days I’m setting out on a similar journey you did – 3 months backpacking Europe. It was supposed to be ours, and England will be especially difficult since he is British. I did the whole retail therapy, meet friends, learn to cook, but deep down I haven’t fully let go. What do you suggest before I leave so that this trip can be fulfilling and enjoyable – not something I’m exchanging my savings account for to fill a void. Thank You and amazing how much I can relate to your story :o)

  • TLB

    I absolutely loved this post. I am on the cusp of finalizing a divorce from my partner of 16 years and I am trying hard to focus my energy on forgiveness in my effort to let go and move on and your story is my story. You just gave me a boost and I needed it. Thank you. Namaste.

  • Ray

    Excellent post, speaks to majority of hearts out there. Well written…

  • Beverly

    Good to know I am not alone in this journey. The pain of abandonment is excruciating, but we must allow ourselves to feel it and go through the process. Forgiveness is freedom.

  • Beverly

    Forgetting is impossible, but forgiving will give those memories perspective, and they will hurt less. Hang in there. It gets easier.

  • love it 🙂

  • I just filed for divorce after going through a year-long process of couples’ therapy, trying to fix our problems and seeing if it could work out… needless to say, it couldn’t, and I moved out last year. My story is long, but the relationship lasted almost 13 years and I pretty much mourned through the entire last year of it. I guess my heart knew before my head did that it wasn’t going to work, but I still gave my all to trying, and it was the toughest thing both physically and emotionally that I’ve ever been through. Without the help of an extremely gifted, supportive and experienced therapist (NOT the couples’ therapist–she was terrible), I truly don’t even know if I’d be alive right now. I think daily about how differently things could’ve turned out for me (especially because I almost couldn’t afford to see my personal therapist on top of the couples’ one), and I just feel so fortunate to be where I am now.

    I did my best to bypass the mourning phase and the angry/bitter phase and pretty much every other phase and skip right to the “I’m perfectly fine and getting on with my life” phase, but wisely my body wouldn’t allow me to and I was forced to deal with everything. If I hadn’t, I am positive I would’ve had a similar story to Jamie’s, but I don’t think I would’ve been as healthy about it as she was (I’m pretty sure I would’ve channeled all that emotion/hurt into something destructive–it was a really overwhelming amount).

    Reading Jamie’s story (and having talked to so many people who have gone through a divorce), I am just reminded of how everyone’s path through something like a divorce is so different. In the end, I really think mine had to happen the way it did (which unfortunately seemed to maximize the pain and draw things out to a torturous length of time). I think it takes so much strength to be where Jamie was and then realize that she needed to go back and work through these issues. That’s so insightful and I can only imagine how much courage it would take to have to face all the things you’d repressed or ignored for all that time.

    This is a long-winded way to say that I truly appreciated this piece, and it gave me a lot of pause to reflect on what I might not have worked through yet as well. I feel so much compassion for anyone who has been through the process of ending a serious, long-term relationship/marriage. I feel like we’re all in one huge world-wide support group because until you’ve experienced it yourself, you can’t imagine how awful it is. Much love to Jamie and everyone else–I’d like to hug you all!

  • This felt all too real. I moved around the country after a break up, burying my life in work, achieving great corporate heights and secretly wishing I was still with someone I loved. Good for you for moving through it!

  • inca

    OK, that just made me cry… i am doing the same thing… thanks for opening my eyes.

  • Deb_vo

    I have been getting Tiny Buddha daily emails for several months, now, and have really benefitted from the wisdom within the words. Thanks so much for all of the wonderful guidance and encouragement!!! I have shared these emails with many others in my Buddhist Sangha and wider circle of friends. Keep them coming!!

  • Hi Deb,

    My name is Lori and I run this site. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed all the emails! There have been some amazing contributions, and I am so grateful to everyone who contributes and gets involved in the conversations.

    Much love and light to you =)
    Lori

  • Jon Davies

    It’s been almost 6 months since my wife decided that our marriage wasn’t going to work and I’ve found it very difficult to let go very quickly and if you valued the relationship – as I did – why would you? It was 17 years of my life and for the most part hugely enjoyable and fulfilling and for it to end requires some major adjustment and determination.

    Like others I’ve filled the void with fairly meaningless and ultimately unsatisfying relationships and try to project a facade of everything’s all right, but a part of me still wants to be with her.

    I will let go, but all of you that have been through this know that it takes time.

    Thank you for the piece, it is very insightful.

  • Keishua

    This resonated deeply with me. Heartache is such a beast. Even when I think I’ve let go, I really haven’t . Thanks for this!

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  • Carolene

    I love this post very much as much as i wanted to let go all my worries today and RIGHT NOW>>. thank you for sharing this post.. rgds, dina

  • You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with. Mother Teresa

    Oh the sweet irony of reality. The bitter, the sweet. No light without darkness. All so “complicated” yet so undeniably simple.

    After 8 months of silence, the only real “true love” I’ve shared life with and I have reconnected, and she texted me that exact quote last week =). So i figure fate wants me to chime in.

    I am as well planning a trip leaving in Sep to India/Bhutan/Bali/auz/NZ and couldn’t help but relate to this article in more ways then i would have liked too. More than the trip itself i would love to able to share the world with someone in which I’d spend the rest of my days with… but who knows, maybe shes on the way there. Two half’s don’t make a whole in relationships, only two wholes can make a whole. In my world, its only been known that sharing is the fullest way to experience love. I always remember the end of (Into the Wild) “Happiness only real when shared”. Truly tho, one must love oneself fully, before it can be shared. And this is the largest part of life I’m working on.

    My outlook is this. As we are only ourselves capable of what we choose to perceive, once the forgiveness has been give out, and more importantly within, we are left with the vast realization that we truly only know ourselves, and have control over just that… Love isn’t something to ever regret giving, and should always be given carelessly, through and through… We can’t get hurt if we give all we are, only our perception, of what things were can be damaged… knowing this, has helped me a lot in realizing the issues most “suffer” from in relationships are simply reflections of lacking self love as you said so beautifully… We are born with all we need, its just a matter of opening our eyes to the beauty and true love that already is within. Real love is a place to give, not take… anything less is just a mind trick =)

    I don’t quote the bible much, but it couldn’t have been better said.

    1 Corinthians 13

    1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

    4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

  • I had all this great stuff to say but now I’m having troubles getting my thoughts together here. I was in a relationship almost 3 years ago that ended suddenly, not of faults of ours (we both had very busy schedules and barely had time to see each other). I’ve had worse breakups by far but this one generated so much pain and I realized it was because there was nothing negative about the relationship to latch on to…nothing to truly kill the pain.

    It’s so much easier to let go when the former partner has hurt you in some way, I tried to look for anything I could, but the simple reality of the situation is that we were very good to each other and I was and still am in love with her.

    It’s been difficult, I think about her everyday but the pain isn’t so debilitating anymore. I don’t know where I am going with this but I felt compelled to write about my experience as I don’t talk to anyone about it. I guess to let others know their really not alone when it comes to difficult topics like this one.

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  • Tegan

    Loved this. Definately connect with those feelings and thoughts. Thanks so much for writing. I’ve come to realise letting go, living with an open, happy and peaceful heart allows so much more joy into my life. Holding on to anger only manifests more anger and negativity. Life is too short and too beautiful to not be happy 🙂

  • Lissiesummer

    I’ve been trying to let go for the last 10 years, he was my frist love, I was an exchange student in canada, and even though we where far away we were back together everytime we got to see eachother, it was hard not to hug him tight or kiss him when i felt i loved him with all my heat… we where not officially together must of the time, but we were always there for eachother and never stop comunicating, we dated other ppl … but finaly what i was most afraid of happened… he got his exgirlfriend pregnant, and he of course as the great guy he is he is going to try to give a happy family to his child, so that was the end of our 10 year love story, my heart still ached, his baby is now almost 2 months and we havent talk of course, but his memory is so present and i have no idea what else i can do!
    yesterday I showed a picture of the little town i used to live in canada, she said to me, wow its super pretty you should have stayed! and i answered, when i had the chance and he asked me to stay, i feel so young and immature to take that step and say no… then she told me. do you realize that day you changed your destiny… your life could be totaly diferent now…. and i cried, I dont know what is it, if i cant forgive myself for not saying or i cant forgive him for not being patience and waited till i graduated so we could be together as we planed a couple of years after he asked me to stay the first time.
    could somebody help me out here PLEASE!
    what do i do and how do i do it!

  • Hi Lissie,

    My heart goes out to you–I know this must be incredibly painful for you. How can I help you?

    Much love,
    Lori

  • I’ve never been good at forgiving both the person who hurt me or myself, it felt so much easier to stay bitter and angry but that made me feel so much worse, it made me hate myself for not letting myself move on. Forgiveness is tough and it’s the last thing you can even comprehend doing when you’re trying to piece back the pieces of your shattered heart but it’s true if you want to feel free, If you want to escape the entrapment of your heart broken emotions forgiving is the only remedy.

  • Lissiesummer

    hi lori! thank you so much for answering and your concern I feel much better today, I guess I needed to digest what was writen in here!
    I am pretty sure your good vibes helped aswell!!
    thank you so much lori for having such a great website =) totaly love it!
    lots of love =)
    lissie

  • Ddc337

    Yes, the pain is absolutely excruciating, but the strength and courage and growth that seem to inevitably and sometimes very slowly seep into us is an unexpected experience of such wonderful enlightenment. We all, as humans, dread loss of love and the pain that comes with it and want to smother the next person who tells us time heals all wounds…but boy-oh-boy are they right!!!! And, not only does time work her magic, but the growth we do experience during the process was obviously necessary for us.

  • Arya

    Hey Brian, 
    I’m exactly on the same. I was in a relationship that was working just fine and all of a sudden it just ended. This was 7 months ago and I’m having trouble moving on because of that, because there is nothing I can blame him for, there is no punch bag so I have to swallow it all. I know it is difficult; I think about him every day and I don’t talk about it with anyone either. I just wrote this because your story is one of the most similar to mine that I’ve read and it does help to know that you are not the only one. 

  • At times even I don’t want to relate to my own article! LoL, but it’s comforting to me to know that so many other people can relate and are feeling the same things I am. Best of luck to you! Thanks for the comment!

  • Sorry this is a really late response. This was one of my first posts on Tiny Buddha and I didn’t know if it was my place to respond. By now your trip is probably over, but that’s okay because whatever processing you needed you to do you probably did while abroad. Traveling is a wonderful way to gain perspective and on my journey’s I learned about what “I” liked, and tried hard not to focus on the things “we” used to love to do together. Hope you had an amazing trip!

  • I agree “Life is too short and too beautiful to not be happy”! 

  • I know exactly what you mean! “I’ve found it very difficult to let go very quickly and if you valued the relationship – as I did – why would you?” This really resonated with me because I’ve probably asked myself that question a million times. I hope with the time that’s past you’ve found peace and contentment. 

  • Thanks for this! It was very insightful!

  • Thank you for your comment! It was really insightful and I think adds so much to my own story. And I couldn’t agree more that “We’re all in one huge world-wide support group.” All the best to you!

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  • wow this hits home

  • Taylorferri

    I came across this post for the second time within the last year. I love it just as much as I did the first time! Love truly, forgive quickly!

  • Stephen

    So how do you forgive, let go, move on when you’ve both made mistakes. You know, taking each others love for granted, a missed kiss, hectic family life, work schedules, etc. but the kicker is how do you do this when there’s a child involved and you’re willing to give it a second chance and she’d rather just give up then try. The love is still there, but it mixes with anger and resentment for walking out on my six year old son and I to “find herself.” part of me feels in denial, but the other part of me that resonates the most is my unwilllingness to give up on my heart. It’s all so confusing in itself, then to throw in the feelings and thoughts that must be going through my sons head. All still just trying to stay strong when he says dad “I know you love mom and I know she loves you, don’t give up on her, she’s just lost right now, but she’ll find her way home.” – he’s six and has such profound insight it seems. Here I am ready to crack. I’m not sure if any of this makes much sense.

  • Amouna

    I wish I could do the same. It has been 18 months since she is gone with no explanation and I am left completely in the dark as to what happened. Part of me thinks she used me as a rebound and I feel like an idiot for having opened up to her and trusted her with my heart and my soul. Part of me wants to forgive her even though what she did was despicable. She never acknowledged anything, never gave me that final talk I so need to turn the page and get on with my life. I want to hate her for it, but for a while I loved her. Now I want to just let go, but it is hard. I am not ready to date again seriously as I do see her shadow everywhere. Please help me so I can reach that state of inner peace.

  • searenityrose

    Years ago I broke off a heartbreaking relationship. I felt he wasn’t being forthright, but he denied it. When we broke up we had no further communication.
    Skip 3 years ahead and one evening I was unexpectedly flooded with intense anger, regret and sadness, all directed towards him. It took hours to work with all of the layers of feelings before I felt cleansed. Then immediately I experienced even more intense feelings of fury, blame, fear, disappointment, shame, sadness, and regret. These were all about me, and had nothing to do with him. There was no escape, so I felt them, and did focused “forgiveness” work with them. The primary source of the self hatred was an unrealistic and unkind feeling that “I should have known better”. I practiced Metta Meditation and fell asleep.
    I was awakened to the phone ringing, and it was him explaining he had withheld the fact that his medical practice was going bankrupt

  • searenityrose

    …..continued from prior post. I know the forgiveness process created what was necessary for him to be moved to call me. He lived 1000 miles away, but space and time did not matter, he felt it was safe to call. I also realized that I am the #1 person who needs frequent check-ins to see if I’m being unmerciful with myself. If I look there’s always some degree of confirmation of the insane belief that “I should have known better”. Going through one currently, so a forgiveness self gift is overdue. May we all know self forgiveness, and then perhaps others can be let off the hook!

  • Emily

    Thank you for writing this. Picked up the phone and called my ex today after not having spoken to him for months. I have been struggling with the breakup for about a year now and he is doing fine and has moved on. Not sure if it was a mistake or not, as I think I gained some sort of closure from it. He was very emotionally abusive in our relationship and the pain I had suffered through the relationship and after has just been astronomical. Despite what I went through, I think I need to forgive in order to take the next step in moving on. I went on “I am fine” overdrive and have been on over 20 dates in 10 months, and I haven’t really felt any emotions because of how shut down I’ve become. It is amazing how a person can affect your life in such a way. I think the social media aspect of looking at everyones life through rose tinted glasses, has made those that have experienced heartbreak feel much more alone than we really are.