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  • Karen Trench

The Lesson of Letting Go


“He who binds to himself a joy

Doth the winged life destroy;

He who kisses the joy as it flies,

Lives in eternity’s sunrise.”

William Blake


Since I was a child, I have believed in a Higher Power; some mystical, ethereal, energetic force far beyond my comprehension but in which I have had faith, blind as it was. I have always considered myself a “spiritual” person but in truth, my deep spiritual faith and practice began in the moment I learned Charlie was gone.


Over the last several years of his life, Charlie and I enjoyed a daily walk together. Sometimes our conversations were light-hearted and easy, and at other times, our conversations would become deeply philosophical in nature, all of which we relished. On occasion, I would share with Charlie my deep belief that the greatest lesson God* intended me to learn in this incarnation was how to let go. At the time, my world consisted of a lot of “what if’s, and shoulda, coulda, woulda’s.” I found myself laden with worry, fear, and doubt over just about everything and struggled with my inability to reconcile the almost overwhelming amount of chaos, sorrow, and suffering that is ever-present on this 3-D plain. Bottom line: My heart and soul knew no peace. I was overly attached to everything and everyone and wishing for outcomes over which I had absolutely no control.


Then came April 6, 2015, the day that Charlie made his choice to leave me and the world for good. It is now, after four years, that I can almost appreciate the irony of the Cosmic Joke that was played on me. On that fateful day, my husband gave me a crash course in learning how to let go. The lesson began when I received “the call,” and what followed over the next number of years was the most challenging and difficult test I could ever imagine undertaking; one that I was certain I was going to fail and fail miserably. How was I EVER going to release my beloved into the ethers let alone shine the light of equanimity on his suicide? I believed with my entire being the he’d presented me with an impossible undertaking.


As God and Universe would have it, I was led, within weeks of Charlie’s death, to a book titled Grieving Mindfully by Dr. Sameet M. Kumar, who is a Buddhist and psychotherapist; both tenets of which are to alleviate suffering. Immediately upon finishing the book, I decided then and there that I had two choices with regard to how I would continue to attend to this tragedy that had befallen me: I could resist it and push up against it with all my might, or I could stop fighting it and instead take refuge in the sweet place called “surrender.” I chose the latter---“the way of the Buddha” as suggested by Dr. Kumar, and I never looked back.


While making this choice did not enable me to let go of the reins altogether, it certainly helped me to loosen that white-knuckle grip that I had on them. And taking the way of the Buddha allowed me in time, to look upon what had happened to me with calmness. With peace in my heart and soul. With complete equanimity. Because of Charlie, I was given the gift of learning my greatest and most difficult lesson and learning it well. Believe me when I tell you that I SO wish the lesson could have been taught in a wholly different way! But, I’d had no choice in Charlie’s departure. I only had a choice as to how I was going to survive it and I’m so grateful for the book I read and the choice that it guided me to make!


Although we would NEVER choose to “let go” of our deceased loved ones---as they remain forever in our hearts and memories, the three Buddhist doctrines below, explained in a “CliffsNotes” sort of way, collectively were for me, the key that would open the door to freeing me of much of the pain and suffering that I experienced when I lost Charlie. The way of the Buddha continues to serve me well to this day with regard to how I view and approach all of life. I hope that perhaps they can help do the same for you.


1. All human pain and suffering come only when we are attached to something; whether that something is from a past that we can no longer change, or worrying about future events over which we have no control.

2. The only thing we possess in any given moment, is simply that---the moment. If we can learn to remain fully present in each moment and honor each with mindfulness and loving attention, then the past and future would no longer matter as both are illusions; neither one is real because neither one exists.

3. If we can approach everything that happens to us, good or bad, with equanimity or a calmness and presence of mind then we would have peace in our hearts no matter what is happening to us personally or in the external world.


Easier said than done, I know. But remember: Relief and release comes not by resisting our pain and suffering but by giving way to it…by letting go!


“Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life."

Eckhart Tolle


*Please feel free to substitute any word(s) you would prefer depending upon your own religious and/or spiritual beliefs.