First, accept that you haven’t let them go yet. Don’t allow yourself to believe your speeches to your friends, or your empty promises to yourself about how they don’t matter anymore. Accept that you still think of them, accept that wine makes your heart tight with thoughts of them, accept that there’s a letter you’ve started to them at least a dozen times, even if only in your mind.
Accept that they’re still here.
You know the one – the one who popped into your head the second you read this, the one who’s been occupying that same little place in the back of your mind for as long as you can remember. It’s the person you think of every so often like a punch to the gut, the one you allow yourself to remember in little painful bursts which make you wince. Maybe they’re still in your life, still on your phone, still the profile you type in late at night after a few glasses of wine and look at just a little too long. Maybe their number hasn’t been in your phone for months, but it doesn’t have to be, because you still remember it by heart. Maybe they aren’t there at all, no one you can touch or laugh with or even yell at with all the things you wish you’d said. Maybe they’re totally gone, but you still can’t let them go.
Remember that it’s not up to you, though. Remember that you can only control your half of the equation, and that it’s not your job to decide when someone else will come and go from your life. You cannot force anyone to stay, or to stay in love, or even to stay your friend. Remember that it will always be worth waiting for the person who wants to be there, that the feeling of being wanted in return will be a thousand times better than holding someone hostage. If you’re still reaching out, still grabbing at their hand, still clinging to the last little bits of what you had – know that it’s only delaying your pain, and robbing you both of your dignity. Never settle for pity.
So take the first step, and the second. Do the things that feel like ripping a band-aid off so that you can start making the decisions, instead of waiting to see what they choose to do. Send that final email that you’ve been delaying, because you don’t want to admit that it’s really, really over. Tell them what you need to say, leave nothing unturned, say the things you can’t come back from. Take away their number, their name on your feed, their old emails you’ve been saving and reading whenever you feel really, really low. Purge yourself of them and choose to do it actively, let yourself have the final say for once by having the first one.
Ask your friends, as nicely as you can, to help you forget them. Tell them that you don’t want to talk about this person anymore, and to cut you off if you do. Remember that what you are in denial about is almost certainly obvious to everyone else, so let them be the mirror you don’t want to look in. When you’re getting desperate, when you’re reaching for your phone, when you’re about to have the same conversation for the hundredth time about what your last conversation meant, make sure there is someone to stop you. Let everyone know you want to be stopped, and you want to be clean.
Start this year with building, with all the things you will focus on and put your energy into, so that there will be no space left for the person you need to let go. Remember that you can only be aching if you have time for it, and that there are a thousand things you could be doing with your evenings that aren’t “debating sending yet another text message you’ll regret.” Make this the year of letting go by making it the year you embrace things, the year you take up space with things that deserve it, and the year you remember how much time you wasted in the last one.
Let them go by remembering that there will be another one. Another love, another project, another passion, another night on a rooftop drinking wine and making each other laugh. There will be another thing that consumes you – and it might not even be a person. If it’s not, maybe even better. Remember that this will not stay forever as the big thing that consumes you, and that this can be the year of finding something much, much better, if you make room for it.
And remember that once someone is gone, they are an anchor, no matter how much you want to see them otherwise. Don’t spend another year with their weight tied to your ankle, because there are way too many wonderful things to see above the water.