What They Have Taught – Pt 5

Holding On and Letting Go

There is a powerful and ongoing dance that I have come to call holding on and letting go. When faced with the reality of finite time things need to get done; relationships are redefined; roles and identity are challenged. The balance between holding on and letting go can be frustratingly elusive; sometimes it is disjointed and awkward; and sometimes it is a gift of grace and breathtakingly beautiful art.

A person holds on to a remembered sense of themselves….roles, accomplishments, and dreams that have been valued. It is overwhelming to consider losing this identity and to face an unknown future.

Denial can be a fragile or strong frame of reference. It can soothe and provide a platform for day to day living. This is often coping at its best and is to be gently respected.

There are very poignant moments when the reality of loss breaks through and the sting of grief immobilizes. Because the losses continue, gradually or suddenly, knowledge of one’s capacity to adjust can take hold.

Yet it is a journey of letting go.

It is a privilege to see the essential definition of a person’s life and uniqueness become clearer and clearer as those things that really don’t matter fall away. Sometimes it is experienced with a sense of relief as burdens are set aside in order to savor the most important. I have seen this provide amusement and joy amidst the tears.

I have come to believe that the give and take within a family in both holding on and letting go is at the center of connectedness and has a congruence that moves beyond lifetimes for it continues as relationship is redefined following death. Perhaps the most exquisite expression of this comes when a loved one offers encouragement for letting go to a dying person. The one leaving and the one staying exchange and share needs simultaneously at the very moment of desperation to hold on and readiness to let go. The edges where one person ends and the other begins become blurred. This is grace.