13 November 2005. Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, UP Diliman. Mass for those who need to let go.
Saying goodbye is an inescapable fact of human life. From the day we were born, when the cutting of the umbilical cord separated us from the protective comfort of our mother’s womb, to the day we make our final farewell when we leave this world, we will always be, as we have always been, saying goodbye. For a little child, this may mean losing a pet one has learned to love. For a teenager, this may mean moving on from childhood to young adulthood. For most of us, this may mean letting go of someone we love, as he or she moves on in life, or to the other life.
The great irony however is that even if we are so used to saying goodbye, it being a recurring reality in human life, people still almost always find it difficult to deal with. Allow us then to share with you some suggestions on how one might deal with the struggles of letting go.
The first important step in letting go is recognition. First and foremost, we need to recognize the need to say goodbye. Many people are not able to move on because they have not even begun recognizing the need to say goodbye.
Exercise: Recognizing the need to say goodbye
Ask yourself: is there something in your life that you feel you have to say goodbye to? Is there some loss that you feel you have not adequately grieved over? Are you experiencing feelings of sadness, pain, abandonment, anger, or resentment, because of some separation? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then perhaps it is time to recognize the fact that there is indeed a need to say goodbye.
Exercise: Recognizing one’s true emotions
With the need to say goodbye comes the need to recognize our true feelings. Ask yourself: honestly, how do you feel about what you are going through? How do you feel about having to say goodbye? Dig deep into your heart and try to be aware of what is really inside. Allow your feelings to surface. Name them and claim them. Recognize that they are there. The problem with some people is that they suppress their feelings too much, some even to the point of denial. In doing that, the process of letting go is hampered.
After recognizing the need to say goodbye, the next step is to adequately express this goodbye. This process begins with an honest expression of one’s feelings, and then moves on to finding an expression for one’s goodbye.
Exercise: Expressing one’s feelings
First, imagine who or what you want to say goodbye to. If he or she is a person, imagine him/her in front of you. If it is an object or an event, imagine this object or event before you, as if it can understand whatever you have to say. Then, begin talking. Talk about your emotions. Talk about how you feel about the separation or the loss. Talk about how it affects you. Share whatever is in your heart.
Then, imagine God before you. In the same way, share with Him how you feel. Tell Him honestly what is happening inside you. If there is a feeling of sadness, of pain, of difficulty, tell Him about it. If there is a feeling of disappointment, of anger, or resentment even, let Him know about it. Express to Him whatever is in your heart.
Exercise: Expressing one’s goodbye
Think of a ritual that would adequately express your goodbye. One example is burying a memento that reminds you of the person, object or event you want to say goodbye to. Or perhaps: symbolically burning a representation of this person, object, or event. Keep it mind however that it does not need to be magnificently grandiose. It can be as simple as writing a letter (that you do not need to send) to the person you want to say goodbye to. Once you feel you are ready to say goodbye, go through the ritual, reminding yourself that this is your way of expressing your goodbye.
In her book Praying our Goodbyes, Joyce Rupp writes: “Surrender walks hand in hand with letting go. To surrender is to give over to God, to give up our power over something that keeps us down or holds us back. When we surrender, we open ourselves up to the mystery of life, to the risks of the future, to the challenge of the unknown.” The act of letting go is an act of surrender, an act of entrusting our concerns to God. When we let go, we affirm our trust in God and His immense goodness. We affirm our belief that God desires nothing else but what is best for us and for our loved ones.
Exercise: Remembering the trustworthiness of God
Take a Scripture passage that speaks of God’s trustworthiness, of how He desires only what is best for us and our loved ones. Some examples are: Jeremiah 29:11-14, Psalm 23, Matthew 6:25-34. Read the passage slowly and let the words speak to you personally. If there are words that strike you, stay with these words and relish them. As you read the scripture passage, if you recall personal experiences of God’s trustworthiness in your life, allow these memories to surface. If there are feelings that arise from this exercise, allow these feelings to surface as well. The goal of this exercise is simply to remind yourself that God is someone you can trust.
Exercise: Entrusting to God
Imagine yourself in front of God, holding the person, object, or event that you want to say goodbye to. Speak to Him. Make your prayer of entrustment. Ask Him to take into His hands whatever it is that you want to say goodbye to. Then, when you are ready to let go, imagine yourself giving to God this person, object or event that you want to entrust.
To a dear one about whom I have been concerned.
Herve Marcoux OMI
I behold the Christ in you.
I place you lovingly in the care of the All Caring One.
I release you from my anxiety and concern.
I let go of my possessive hold on you.
I am willing to free you to follow the dictates of the indwelling Spirit.
I am willing to free you to live your life according to your best light and understanding.
Husband, wife, child, friend,
I no longer try to force my ideas on you, my ways on you.
I lift my thoughts about you, above the personal level.
I see you as God sees you,
a spiritual being,
created in God’s image,
endowed with qualities and abilities that make you needed and important not only to me but to God and God’s larger perspective.
I do not bind you.
I no longer believe that you do not have the understanding you need in order to meet life.
I bless you.
I release you.
I have faith in you.
I behold Jesus in you.
God bless you too.
*Joel Liwanag SJ adapted from Joyce Rupp's Praying our Goodbyes.