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The Right To Let Go

Letting go is never easy, saying goodbye eases the process

A very important life lesson is learning to let go, where 'letting go' could refer to many things:

– Dropping certain responsibilities, professional accountabilities and tasks

– Weaning off from regular habits, conventions and activities

– Recalibrating set thoughts, perceptions and beliefs

It could also, quite literally, refer to saying goodbye to some individual or collective who will be changing their locale for whatever reason.

In change management processes it is essential to make room for letting go. Whether it be in order to enable people to express grief, or to separate ceremoniously from what is being left behind, and even to celebrate it for what it was. These are all important emotional steps towards the acceptance of a new situation. It is never easy to give up something that is tried, tested, comfortable and familiar. We need to acknowledge that. But what do you do, when an ending is reached and the right to let go is not given?

I have a friend – and to some extent a colleague – that I have been volunteering with over the past year. Her family's decision to relocate was very well-timed with the official end of some of our main volunteer activities. So, last night, a group of us came over to her empty apartment to celebrate her, her contribution to our activities and her imminent departure. It was with great surprise and dismay, that all attempts to talk about her departure and to thank her, were abruptly cut off, and the subject was changed to rehash old issues and to raise new issues. In an unexpected turn of events, the celebratee went on the offensive.

As an outsider looking in, what happened can be given several explanations:

– There was a miscommunication: she didn't realise that the purpose of the meeting was to say goodbye

– She is in denial

– She is unready or unwilling to let go

One thing was clear, the group was further up along on the change curve, than our dear friend.

The thing is that letting go is not just the right of the person who is the direct subject of the departure, it is also the perogative of those who are affected by the loss. While my friend may not be ready to say goodbye, the rest of us needed that closure.

However, these things cannot be rushed. Our friend needs the time and space to catch up and get to a place of acceptance. In this particular scenario, our closure can wait. It's all good. Patience is a virtue learnt slowly. Until the time comes and the right to let go is granted, I have thought about it and I think it is OK to send my friend a parting quote that says a lot in a few words. It is not grandiose, philosophical or academic, it is the authentic ramblings from the mind of a fictitious bear.

To my friend: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – Winnie The Pooh

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