Letting go is easier said than done, especially if you’re a teen!
My teen client Briony* is a good example. She used to have a best friend, Erin*. For years, they were inseparable. Until one day, Briony went to the lunch tables and found Erin sitting with a new group. She approached eagerly and Erin turned away. The other girls followed, rolling their eyes and carrying on conversations as Briony stood there hurt and confused. After school, Briony sent a message to Erin expressing how she felt and asking what was going on. She received a prompt reply: I haven’t been happy in our friendship for a long time. You’re too into yourself to notice. Now I have new friends who make me happy.
Briony’s parents reached out to me a few months after this incident because their daughter was still eating lunch alone and at home, she was a mix of anger and tears, often begging to change schools.
When I met Briony (weeks after the lunch table incident) she told me about her friendship with Erin and I could see she was still holding on. She was still trying to figure out why Erin had abandoned her and what Erin had meant when she said Briony was “too into herself.” She was endlessly replaying that painful day at the lunch tables, stuck in a loop that bred sadness, shame, and self-doubt, and kept her from moving forward.
Like many teens who’ve experienced a friend’s betrayal, Briony needed an outlet to process her feelings and tools that would help her move forward with confidence. One of these tools was a process for letting go.
Letting go begins by recognizing that holding onto painful memories or feelings doesn’t change anything. Holding on keeps us stuck and blinded to the wisdom and strength that often come out of a challenging or painful experience. To get to this point, I had to ask Briony thought-provoking questions that helped her see she was stuck. These included:
- How is constantly thinking about this helping you?
- What would change if you knew why Erin moved on?
- Does feeling bad about yourself help you make new friends?
Once Briony realized her thought patterns were unhelpful, she was ready to practice letting go.
There are many ways to let go but I have found teens benefit (and enjoy) using the Let It Go Letter. After completing it, girls gain a sense of relief and from this place, they are more receptive to considering helpful next steps. By writing, girls access a new perspective and unhook from the cycle of negative thinking and rumination. Sometimes the Let It Go Letter needs to be repeated until there is a genuine sense of relief. Many girls like to use the letter as a reference for verbally expressing themselves. There is no right or wrong way to use this tool. The important thing is to approach it with the intention to express yourself honestly, let go, and move on.
You can download a version of the Let It Go Letter in the Year in Focus Journal.
*Not their real names.