The Ultimate Letting Go: Release Your Fear and Be Free

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” ~Norman Cousins

It seems on some level we must know that nothing lasts forever. That knowledge must be built into our DNA; surely our cells know their own mortality, that entropy is an unavoidable fact of life.

So why do we fight the inevitable? Why do we crave security and consistency? Illusion that it is, we look for promises where it's not possible for them to be made.

We buy all kinds of insurance, telling ourselves that if we spend that money, that bad thing won't happen to us and we'll be “safe.”

We sign contracts, “ensuring” that that piece of property will always be ours and that that relationship, personal or professional, will never be anything but what it is today. We pour money into tricks to keep us young, seemingly viewing aging and death as the ultimate enemy of happiness and success.

But what if we embraced change, not just as a necessary evil but even as a blessing?

At a tender young age, I experienced the most significant loss of my life, the death of a very dear friend. Robbed of the innocence and naivete of youth, in the decade that's followed I have learned far more painful, poignant, and enduring lessons that I know I would have otherwise.

That loss also resulted in one big giant fear of the ultimate change—I was terrified of losing the people I cared about. It was nearly paralyzing, and this fear resulted in a lot of ugly insecurity. Ironically enough, that very fear may be just an unattractive enough quality that it could have driven away my loved ones and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I am eternally grateful to the ones who loved me enough to stand by while I discovered this, building my confidence so that I could change from needing, clinging, and fearing their loss to loving freely and letting go.

Whatever the nature of the relationship, there's something about two people letting go of each other, knowing that the other doesn't belong to you, that is so much more life-giving than those same two clinging tightly, bracing for the inevitable blows life will deal. It makes whatever comes that much more manageable.

We are inexplicably linked to the ones we love. Whatever our religious or spiritual beliefs, we can all agree that when someone is lost, whether through death or change, they are not gone, in that if nothing else they remain in our heads and hearts.

It is up to us to have the strength to remember that what has been has been real, and that it is not changed by the loss. 

One of my favorite quotes is from Rainer Maria Rilke: “A person isn't who they were during the last conversation you had with them. They're who they've been throughout your whole relationship.”

It gives me great peace to remember that, even if we go to bed angry and one of us doesn't wake up tomorrow, it doesn't change the fact that we love each other.

There's a proverb about anticipation of a thing being better than the thing itself, and I think the opposite is true of the negative things we anticipate. Tensing our muscles and preparing for impact, the anxiety wears on our nerves, but eventually the dreaded event occurs and we weather it. Life goes on.

I firmly believe that behind every action lies one of two main motivators: fear or love. We act out of fear of loss, fear of change, fear of the unknown. Or, embracing loss, change, and the unknown as things outside of our control, we can choose to act out of love.

My challenge to you is to believe that love is greater, more powerful, and longer-lasting than whatever it is that's triggering that fear reaction. Believe it, and then act like you believe it.

Fear makes people predictable. We run from the thing that causes us fear, becoming sheep of sorts, running from the sheepdog without thought as to where he might be steering us. News stations use our fears to sell stories, politicians use our fear of the “other guy” to get our votes, and, quite often, it works. Why is this?

Fear is a safe bet; love, on the other hand, is not. When you're acting out of a genuine love, whether it's for a significant other, friend, child, family member, or life itself, you have a spring in your step, a confidence in your eye, and a fearless approach to whatever life hands you.

You, my friend, are unpredictable. You are a force to be reckoned with. Don't let fear rob you of who you could be.

Photo by BFSMan

About KC McCormick

Karen McCormick Çiftçi writes and collects stories about intercultural marriage and relationships at

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  • jin

    if pleasures are greatest in anticipation, just remember that this is also true of troubles. — elbert hubbard

    it isn’t the quote you were thinking of, but i think it is befitting. excellent post, sir.

  • ViridianGirl

    What a great post! Thank you very much.

  • Dan Garner

    I agree fully with what you have to say, but it is a lot of work to change one’s mindset. It takes deep reflection, and sometimes counselling. It requires commitment. The results are well worth the effort.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

  • Waterbaby

    I so needed this today. Thank you. Reading Tiny Buddha is a part of my morning routine. Today is my birthday and the first one I have spent alone in a while. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the person I lost – it clouds my experience of so much. So
    this morning I woke up feeling sad, sad about the loss, sad that I’m sad about the loss, sad that this year is different than last year and on and on and on. Then I opened Tiny Buddha and there seemed to be a perfectly poignant message today. At the end of this post I feel lighter, and hopeful and Ok. What a wonderful start to a birthday! Thank you so much:)

  • Sheila J.

    I wish you a beautiful birthday, full of promise, hope, & happiness. Namaste! 🙂

  • “My challenge to you is to believe that love is greater, more powerful, and longer-lasting than whatever it is that’s triggering that fear reaction. Believe it, and then act like you believe it.”

    Wow… I certainly do believe it. But in a relationship, what if the other may not? Therein lies my fear; I’m not in this alone. Or perhaps I am.

    Thanks for a wonderful post.

  • Chapter1

    I echo Waterbaby on this. I needed to read this today and I am going to refer back to it when those feelings of fear and anxiety creep back up on me. Thank you for sharing these words of advice, perspective and encouragement.

  • lv2terp

    FANTASTIC blog!!! Thank you for this wisdom, and sharing your experience! 🙂

  • beautifulsea

    I just let go of/lost a friend this morning, someone who meant more to me than anyone else ever had. And more than I think anyone else ever will. I currently feel so broken down and utterly sad, but this helped. I’m going to put that quote on my wall and try to remember the good times instead of the bad. I don’t know how to overcome his apathy for me, but I hope one day maybe we can be friends again. I hope one day we can trust each other again.

  • Debra

    Happy Birthday to you. I wish you all the best today and in the days to come.

  • cosmic chick

    Yep I also so needed to read this today, thankyou 🙂

  • Funky Brewster

    That’s my girl!!! Such brilliant insight. I’m so blessed to be your friend and I’m so glad I got to learn this with you- although reading it was pretty rad too =)

  • calvine

    Happy Birthday to you!! I am sorry you were alone on this special day. I don’t know you but like you Tiny Buddha is my morning ( and evening too!) routine. I am going through divorce and the loss is also difficult for me so I decided to changed my days and nights with powerful messages of wisdom to feel better. And it works! Courage to you!

  • Mahesh

    What a awaking post. Thanks. I truly believe in each word and each sentiment of the article. This article seems so natural and powerful.

  • Mahesh

    Hi Danielle, There is solution in this article. For judging the relationship see it from the perspective of whole period not for last time interaction. If the relationship is really bad from whole period then breaking the relationship could be an option.

    Hope it will help. God bless you. Namste

  • KC McCormick

    I’m glad to hear you were touched. I’ve had that experience myself many times with articles I’ve found on here speaking to exactly what I was feeling, and I’m thrilled to pass even a fraction of that blessing on. And happy birthday!!

  • Tracy C.

    Well said! As a 60 year old psych nurse and counselor I truly beleive that conquering this fear can lead to greater peace for all of us.. In fact, I value it so much I wear around my neck a charm that reads, “Amor fati” – love your fate. Love and embrace life on life’s terms, without resistance to the comings and goings we each will know in our lives. Thank you for this post!


  • KC McCormick

    I completely agree, Dan, and I’d never be comfortable making the call as to whether that change could be accomplished without some outside assistance. That said, I can’t imagine talking it through with a counselor would ever be a bad idea.

  • KC McCormick

    Thanks for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • KC McCormick

    Thanks, Mahesh. I really appreciate the positive feedback!

  • KC McCormick

    It was a pleasure doing all that learning with you, and I can’t imagine having done it nearly as well without you.

  • KC McCormick

    Glad to hear it spoke to you! Thanks for reading!

  • KC McCormick

    I’m happy to hear you were touched, but so sorry that you’re going through such a painful experience. You’re in the right place to find lots of good wisdom and support to get you through the hard days. So many people (myself included) check in here on a regular basis, and I know I’ve found a lot of peace in moments of anxiety thanks to this site.

  • KC McCormick

    Thank YOU for the feedback – just happy to have something to give back!

  • KC McCormick

    It’s great to have some source of comfort and perspective in those anxious moments. I’m honored to provide you a little bit of that, and I wish you the best on your journey!

  • KC McCormick

    I guess that’s always the challenge with loving. I firmly believe that the only thing I can control in this world is myself, and I just hope that as long as I’m loving to the best of my ability and not shielding my vulnerability out of fear of getting hurt that, somehow, it’ll be “okay.” I suppose the other challenge is figuring out what “okay” means, or redefining it in whatever way I can to maintain my own inner peace.

    Thanks for reading, and thanks for the feedback! Wishing you the best…

  • KC McCormick

    You definitely make a good point, Mahesh. There’s no need to subject ourselves to needless pain by wholeheartedly loving those who abuse us. As always, there is no black and white solution to the things involving the heart. We just hope to find the right path for ourselves.

  • KC McCormick

    That’s a perfect quote! Thank you!

  • KC McCormick

    I love that quote – we may as well find a way to love what we can’t change, control, or predict, because any other response will only cause anxiety and needless suffering. Thanks so much for the feedback!

  • openingnow

    Thanks for the calming thoughts. In going through life change it is always grounding to hear a new or even forgotten perspective

  • Waterbaby

    These responses have filled my heart – what a gift. Sometimes it is enough to just trust that life will give you exactly what you need. Thank you

  • KC McCormick

    You’re most welcome. I completely agree about revisiting past lessons – one of the best parts about journaling, I think.

  • Narwhaltat

    I feel like I’ve had a ‘great leap forward’ in recent months on my transition from living in a place of fear and living in a place of love .. different chapters, challenges and changes in my family and at work have rattled me deeply, and I’ve done quite a lot of soul-searching and letting go of out-dated detritus .. and your article resonates so deeply for me .. thank you for your words. I’m not quite living full-time in the place of love, but I’m visiting it more and more often, and gradually finding my new home there .. blessings to you x x

  • Narwhaltat

    Happy Birthday, Waterbaby .. I loved the line “embracing loss, change, and the unknown as things outside of our control, we can choose to act out of love” .. it’s when we allow ourselves to feel just what we’re feeling that we can move through the pain into the lighter, hopeful, grateful place .. as we ‘hand over our burden to the Divine Mind’ by feeling our feelings, so we become lighter .. I’m wishing you every blessing for your birthday :o)

  • Liberty

    One of the most beautiful posts I’ve read on here.. thank you for sharing your insight and experience.

  • cris

    Thank you thank you–my husband died last New Year’s day, and I am fearful of this coming season. Not sure if sadness and fear come from the same event, and am trying to come to grips with the passage of time that can allow less sadness. The Rilke quote resonated with me- it;s going on the wall

  • KC McCormick

    All the best to you for the holiday season, Cris. I’m sure there are painful days ahead, but I hope you can find moments of strength, peace, and beauty to get you through it.

  • KC McCormick

    Thank you for that comment, Liberty – I really love the things this community shares and am honored to be a part of it.

  • KC McCormick

    That sounds like a familiar journey – funny how those soul-rattling experiences are such potent fertilizer for growth. Best wishes to you as you continue on your way!

  • JT

    So needed to hear this. I am separated single mom. Been thru many ups and downs of life. But truly each experience has made me wiser. But as the time passed by a very hidden fear made place in my mind – not to trust anyone. Fear that each individual has a selfish relationship with me and each will betray me. Lived in this fear for many years and I want to set myself free from this demonic feeling. Your article helped me a lot today. I am planning to take a major decision to reunite with my husband after prolong period of separation. Letting go all fears and giving my relationship with him one more try fearless… letting go… 🙂

  • Catriona Gail

    Thank you. This is beautiful.