“Release at the right time, fly to me. I will catch you and then release you.” the coach said as they prepared to let go.
The repeated message a person sitting with grief will hear and the message I received from my son Sage after his passing.
“Let go mum” was shared in spirit more then once and whispered over the first years of living in a world without him.
I could hear the words but did not feel them and chose not to release. Letting go sounds simple; just let go. It sounds easy in theory yet torture in practice for the grieving heart not yet ready. The full sense of yourself is wanting to hold on. To keep the feeling of them close. To grip the edge for dear life as the waves of grief come crashing. To grasp on to memories and pieces of the one you lost. To let go is letting them go and it is the last thing you want and the one thing you are asked to do by the world around you. There is an assumption that if one “let’s go” they will move forward along their healing path. If one holds on, the fear is that they will become stuck.
Holding on is the closed fist, white knuckles and tension of the jaw. Letting go is the open palm, wide arms and the heart that is allowing. Even knowing this, I held on. I would daydream of the mystical day in my future where the pain would be quiet and my smile to the world was genuine and not a facade that helped make others feel comfortable. Just as much time was spent indulging in the nightmare I created that portrayed me as the mother who never loved again and who watched, through agony eyes, others building futures with their families and growing in love.
The battle between daydream and nightmare did little to help my knowing of, or understanding of, the “let go”. They were time vampires that stole my mind away from the present and propelled me back to pain or forward to a future that was a made up fantasy script. On days that I felt strong enough I practiced at letting go but had no idea how it was to be done. Is it an action? A feeling? Was there a way to do it that no-one had told me about?
Three years after Sage passed I was in Kosovo working on my honor project for him; The Imagine a Day Project. The project invites the children of the world to imagine a day and to believe in their impossible dreams. I was with my creative companion, Hayley, who had created the project with me, and a team from her university. We were working for two weeks with a group of twenty teachers, youth leaders and community workers who all wished to create a new future, for themselves and the children and youth they worked with. Years of civil war had, as wars do, caused great divide and pain in the country. They openly engaged in our process and project and began to see how the imagination can be a magical force that can shift pain to possibility. It was a great privilege to work with them.
I was swimming in a myriad of emotions. Working on the project, while beautiful, was also a reminder that Sage was dead. Half way through our two weeks in Kosovo the third death day came crashing - the beauty was gone and pain won at crushing me. I floundered with my deep missing of Sage and wanted desperately to move away from pain and be available to the people I was working with and serving. All I knew then of moving away and letting go was to move away from him. I held on and the pain stayed.
Days after the anniversary and at the completion of the project I heard a new message. Sages message transformed from “Let go Mum” to “Let me go Mum.”
I sat with Hayley on our last day in Kosovo and shared my feelings and the message. In my telling of the new message an image appeared. In my minds eye I saw my palms open and the space around me shift from closed to expansive. In the space created a flood of children swam in. The image was colorful, dynamic and filled with innocence and delight. It brought tears to my eyes and to my whole being.
I left Kosovo knowing more but unsure of what would happen next. As I sat with the image in the weeks that followed it inspired a direction forward of service and the opening towards others. It was not immediate but over time I followed the pulse of this new message and I began the embodied process of letting go.
I felt into the spaces between and around me, I created expansion and called in new experiences. I began to focus on myself and what being in the world meant to me. I shifted to a service frame and wondered what gifts I had to share and how I could be of benefit. I acknowledged those in my life I had hurt while lost in my grief and I welcomed back the children I kept at arm's length. Gently and slowly the world around me grew.
I embraced my new friend grief. I let her sit with me long enough to hear her. She told me that it is in the letting go, in the creation of space, that we allow new layers to develop so she can, in concert with us, work on heart repair and soul expansion. I nurtured my relationship with grief and spent as much time with her as I did with the spirit of Sage. In truth, I think Sage was relieved. When I would call on him to meet me in the space between worlds he would tell me I was ok, he was ok, and also he was busy and had things to do. A true teenage boy response. It was grief who was pleased to see me. She was so happy I had surrendered and was allowing time and space to learn from her.
Letting go of Sage was not so much a release of him (as he was already gone!) but an acceptance of me living a life full of possibilities without him. As I leant further into what was possible for me my tight grip on Sage shifted to an energy of us still connected but moving and growing in different vibrations.
Recently I was gifted time at a cottage on the grounds of the Omega Wellness Retreat Center, in Upstate New York. The gift was time away to be and to write, or not. It was self directed and I could choose to join in on classes or to simply sit under a tree. The grounds of the center are glorious and brimming with green energy of trees and the love that nature generously provides.
Outside my cottage was a field and a few steps away from my front door was a tall and impressive trapeze complete with two swings and a huge safety net. Each morning I would sit on the verandah and write. My background soundtrack was two young women being coached by their circus trainer in a trapeze act of letting go and being caught. The direction of the coach was specific and clear.
“Release at the right time, fly to me, I will catch you and then release you. Fly, spin and catch your swing.”
The coach was supportive and had all faith that the trick could be done. The two women took turns flying, being caught, flying and falling. Each time they fell they landed and bounced on the net and each time they were awarded laughter and encouragement. They were getting closer to nailing the trick and the next leap may be the one that catches them. The women flew and fell for hours each morning.
On the second day after softly listening I heard a layer of a message for me and others working at letting go. The coach taught the women to let go at just the right time to ensure their flight to him landed a successful catch and he advised them to leap and spin in just the right rhythm in order to fly and to save themselves as they returned to their swing.
The message, twisted in the underbelly of the coaches words were; practice at letting go and being caught. Let go at just the right time, expect to be caught, save yourself with your own leaping and individual spin. Remember that if you fly and fall there is a net under you with those around ready to applaud your efforts and encourage you further.