Not many people find the first person they date is the one with whom they spend their life. That means having to move on from Mr Wrong in order to find Mr Right. It means learning to let go.

But just because a man turned out to be Mr Wrong doesn’t mean the relationship wasn’t important or deeply meaningful. And even though moving on is the right thing to do, it hurts.

A lot.

And just telling yourself that you did the right thing isn’t enough to stop it hurting.

A lot.

There are two main schools of thought about learning to let go. One says that it’s important to spend time grieving for what you’ve lost as it will eventually bring closure. But what if it doesn’t? What if actively focusing on the past keeps it alive so the closure never comes?

The other says that you will recover sooner if you concentrate on survival; that is on living. On the future.

Why Learning to Let Go Demands Just That

It’s tempting to tell yourself that holding on is the easier way because it does justice to your feelings. You might even tell yourself it’s the strong thing to do. But what you are really doing is clinging to something that is gone, and which you cannot change.

And that is a waste
A waste of your time
And a waste of your energy

There is less pain when you concentrate on survival, and that means on the future. You have to expend energy, both emotional and physical, to do so. This is time that will not be spent on regrets. The trouble with thinking over the past is that you waste your energy on futile retrospections.

What did I do wrong?
Would it have been different if I’d done this or that?
Could I get him back?

Your instincts may press you to ruminate in this way and even to isolate yourself. But the more you think about the past, the more you stay there, unable to move on. It becomes a vicious circle.

But if you focus on survival, then it means making an effort to face the future, to put your energy into meeting new people, interacting with them and creating new relationships. Your focus is on life, recovery, renewal. In looking forward you reduce the level and duration of the pain because your mind is positive.

Ways of Learning to Let Go

Good intentions can’t always help you when the drag of the past is overwhelming, so it helps to have some strategies to use when the going gets tough.

Acknowledge You Don’t Want to Let Go

There are benefits of sorts to not letting go. You can go on believing you were right and maybe even hope for acknowledgement of that. But is it likely?

You can also indulge in the dubious satisfaction of being a victim and receiving the comfort and support of your family and friends. This creates a cosy niche for you from which you don’t have to emerge and face the nasty cruel world outside.

But these are short-term rewards. And what they are doing is preventing you from having the future you deserve.

Accept and Forgive

Instead of turning things over and over in your mind, try to accept that the past cannot be changed. Constant churning over whatever is haunting you makes it loom ever bigger when you need to distance yourself from it. The best way to let go is to forgive. Until you do you are giving whatever grieves you a power it does not merit.

Forgiving destroys that power and frees you from the past

However hard it is, remember that that you owe it to yourself to break the chains of the past because you won’t find happiness until you do.

Focus On What You Can Change

The reason the past has such power is that it can’t be changed. But the future is in your hands. Take some small step into that future every day. Make a plan or a chart if necessary of what you are going to do each day to improve your life and bring your dreams closer. Try to stick to it but don’t despair or give up if you stumble. Tell yourself there’s always tomorrow and keep looking forward.

Learning to Let Go Will Give You Control Over Your Life

Don’t cling to the past when it can never make you happy. The nineteenth-century writer Dickens created a character called Miss Havisham who was jilted on her wedding day and spent the rest of her life reliving that day in anger and resentment, still in her wedding dress and with the banquet on the table. What a waste.

Of course that was fiction, but most of us know someone who clings to a past wrong, growing more and more bitter, refusing to accept, forgive and move on. Someone very miserable.

Don’t be like that. The best is yet to come.