Thoughts on Letting Go and Bereavement


photo (30)I recently was reading an autobiography written by the country western singer Naomi Judd called “Love Can Build a Bridge.”  In her book, Naomi describes what she believes is an essential trait to happiness—an ability to overcome loss.  When I read this quality, I stopped and put the book down.  There are many traits and habits I’ve attempted to develop in myself over the years—exercising regularly, eating more fruits and vegetables, saying prayers in the morning– but this was a new way of phrasing something I struggle with.  I hold on.  I don’t let go easily. 

As a teenager, I remember waterskiing with a friend’s family on a reservoir outside Phoenix.  I put on the lifejacket and hopped in the water.  They tossed me the towline and started to accelerate the boat.  I popped up easily and skied around the perimeter of the lake.  And then I wiped out.  At that point, the ride got interesting. I was circulating lake water through my nose.  Every muscle on my body hurt and in the distance, over the sound of the motorboat engine, I could hear faint words yelling something at me.

“What are they saying?” I asked myself as the seemingly soft surface of water pounded against my face and body like concrete.

And then finally, I was able to discern what they were saying, “Let go!”

When I let go of the rope, I felt a profound sense of relief.  The pain of being pulled and slammed simultaneously stopped.  While the people on the boat went to retrieve my skis, I bobbed in the water and caught my breath.

Contrast is a wonderful teacher.  And yet, I still haven’t learned.  I still hold on.  What I hold on to most fiercely are ideas in my mind of how I want things to be.

I hold onto the past. What I am working on these days is being more fully in the present moment.  I know this sounds cliché, but for me it means allowing that we each live many different lives within one lifetime.  I’ve started telling myself this more often and it’s helping.  What I’m trying to do is to show myself the beauty and gifts of each life instead of devoting time to missing a previous life.

When someone significant dies, that life, the life with that person is over.  Not the memories, not the stories, but the actual day to day this is how we lived and loved and fought are over.  But as one life closes another opens.  And it has its own gifts and struggles.

What I’m learning about myself is that if I hold on for too long to something that requires letting go, I risk missing whatever or whomever is right in front of me wanting love and offering love.

Advice to a friend whose mom has cancer Cake, Ice Cream and Hospice
Advice to a friend whose mom has cancer
Cake, Ice Cream and Hospice

The author

About Kathleen Buckstaff: Kathleen Buckstaff is an award-winning author, columnist, performance artist, cartoonist and photographer. She currently writes for The Huffington Post and wrote regularly for the Los Angeles Times and The Arizona Republic. Kathleen performed her one-woman play to sold-out theatres in CA, AZ and NYC and expanded the play into a book called The Tiffany Box, a memoir which was honored in 2013 as a USA BEST BOOK AWARDS finalist. Kathleen’s book Mother Advice To Take With You To College: Humor, Inspiration and Wisdom To Go was released in March of 2014. Kathleen’s abstract photographs of lilies were exhibited for the first time in April of 2014. Kathleen has a BA in Creative Writing from Stanford and a MA in Journalism from Stanford. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, their three children and their dog Lily.