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I’m someone who holds on—tight.
I’m talking iron grip.
I’ve never had a knack for handling change well. For going with the flow. For letting go and moving on and walking away.
It doesn’t feel natural to me, especially when it comes to walking away from someone I love.
Even when I know the relationship—whether romantic, friend, or family—isn’t healthy or isn’t advancing the way it should be or isn’t filled with the respect and love that it used to be (or that I hoped it one day would be) or just doesn’t feel right anymore, I struggle to separate fully.
Part of my struggle is that I want a clean ending. I want things tied up nicely, with a bow that says, “We’ve worked through all our lingering issues and now I can let go with peace and healing in my heart.”
But that’s rarely the case.
And so I hold on, even if just in my mind—sometimes even when that person has been physically gone from my life for a while—and imagine what I would say to them if I ever had the chance. If I could tie things up with a tidy little bow. If I could have the “right” ending.
I used to tell myself it was only when I could look back on a relationship and genuinely say “Thank you” (for the person and the experience) that I’d know I had truly let go. That, in my own way and on my own time, I had healed.
But the truth is that healing isn’t always that simple. Sometimes healing sounds like, “I’m glad you’re not in my life,” or “F*ck you,” or “I’m sorry I screwed up.” And sometimes letting go sounds like, “I’m proud that I haven’t thought about calling you in weeks,” or “I want another chance,” or “Just because you’re family doesn’t mean I have to put up with your sh*t.” Sometimes, just saying the words out loud, even if the person you think needs to hear them is nowhere to be seen, can be cathartic.
This week, I asked our readers: If you could say anything to an ex partner/friend/family member, what would you tell them?
Some of the responses made me crack up, some made me tear up, and some showed a level of vulnerability that many of us can only hope to achieve. But no matter where we are in our healing process, or how much we might still struggle to let go, these words will show us we’re not alone:
1. “I hope life makes you responsible for all you have done wrong.” ~ Kimberly
2. “I miss you. I’m so sorry for hurting you while I was still unaware of my wounds. You were my favorite bridge, and I really wish I hadn’t burned you while my world was on fire.” ~ Sarah
3. “I’m sad and hurt to have turned to you in a time of crisis in life thinking you were one of my supports. My biggest mistake was thinking you were a better person than the one who was hurting me.” ~ Natasha
4. “My life is drastically better without you in it.” ~ Angie
5. “I don’t hate you. I don’t even need an apology. Just an acknowledgement that things happened and that it had an impact.” ~ Jacqui
6. “I would like to say, thank God we are older and wiser! Let’s forgive ourselves and each other, want the best for each other, move on, and have a good life!” ~ MaryJane
7. “Why was my love never good enough?” ~ Julie
8. “Thank you for coming into my life and teaching me that I am ready for an emotionally evolved man and that I no longer need to fix anyone. I am free to love and be loved wholly. I have lost the codependency I wore for a long time.” ~ Giselle
9. “My soul aches for your soul.” ~ Miranda
10. “I miss being able to call you and talk. We were better friends than we ever were a couple.” ~ Mary
11. “You’re absence brings me peace, therefore I didn’t lose you.” ~ Carrie
12. “I didn’t know any better at the time. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Can we start over? I love you.” ~ Linda
13. “Commit, with enthusiasm, to therapy.” ~ Cherie
14. “Quit trying to friend me on Facebook. I forgive you for being such a crappy lover, but I don’t need you as a friend.” ~ Karen
15. “I mourned you for a long time. But I don’t anymore.” ~ Rebecca
16. “I’m sorry I was a selfish drunk.” ~ Chris
17. “I’m scared for you because you trusted me with your deepest insecurities and I don’t think you’re working on those. I’m afraid I’ll see a notice of your funeral. You have so much capacity for good, I wish you could see that.” ~ Manda
18. “I hope our time together had meaning and that our time apart brought you peace.” ~ BJ
19. “I’m silently waiting for you.” ~ Rolan
20. “The most perfect line I ran across was in Kirkwood’s novel, PS Your Cat is Dead: ‘May all your orgasms turn to stone!'” ~ Richard
21. “So, was the grass greener…?” ~ Sabrina