Letting Go

A few weeks ago, I experienced one of those serendipitously perfect moments occasionally offered by life. The combination of the beauty of the vibrant colours of leaves at their peak mixed with the sunshine and the ideal temperature created a perfect moment. Although I knew it was impossible, I desired to freeze this perfect moment in time to enjoy for the next several months. The problem is no moment in time lasts forever. No season highlights this fact and the need to let go of each moment more than autumn.

The reminder of loss is demonstrated every year at this time, in this part of the world. The leaves are now passed their peak, and many have fallen to ground as life continues to move and change. The reality of loss was further reenforced for me by the tragic death of Sadie Bender in a car accident at Punkeydoodles Corner and then the following week by the death of a good friend's elderly father. These events reminded me how losses and the need to let go often arrive unbidden. Sometimes the losses experienced in life can feel more like a hurricane uprooting the entire tree than like leaves drifting to the ground.

In addition to the inevitable losses of people in our lives, we will encounter no shortage of other losses. Having an elderly father, not to mention aging myself, has made it abundantly clear to me how life may seem like a continuous letting go. The pile of losses can include a loss of health, a decline in mobility, the necessity to downsize, the end of employment, and the change or disappearance of purpose.

Trees offer many lessons about letting go, besides the lesson of the inevitability of loss, which they display through their annual shedding of leaves. One lesson may be the necessity of a dormant fallow time following the letting go. After a loss it is important to sit in the empty, barren place to acknowledge the absence of whatever has been lost. Connected with this barrenness is the reality of feeling completely exposed and unprotected as the cold winter winds relentlessly pummel. To get through losses some people may want to prematurely jump to spring and attempt to ignore the potency of the loss through toxic positivity. Trees teach us the hard truth of not being able to rush to spring because one cannot get around losses, one can only go through them.

My heart goes out to the families impacted by the loss of loved ones, particularly the most recent ones. As the rest of us attempt to deal with whatever other losses we are currently experiencing may we draw wisdom from the trees. The trees are aware of the cycle of loss, they know when to let go and how to remain in the barren time by resisting the urge to jump ahead to spring. Trees can face these challenges instinctively, whereas humans can often benefit from the assistance of close friends and/or trained professionals. Reach out in your time of loss.

Chip Bender, Register Psychotherapist (qualifying)
Interfaith Counselling Centre

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