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Letting Go of People: Why It’s So Hard, 29 Signs You Must & Steps to Do It

The hardest part of life is letting go of people. But does it always have to hurt? Here’s how to end things, forget someone, and ease the pain.

letting go of people

Once you’ve made a connection with someone—whether it’s over one date or years of dating—letting go can feel impossible. To understand why letting go of people is so hard, and for you to be able to finally move on from a bad situation in your life, you need to understand your own mind.

At first, moving on from something that felt so important to you just doesn’t feel right. Friendships, relationships, and even brief bonding can ingrain in you so deeply that you don’t want to let go, even when you know you should.

Letting go of people hurts. It’s a form of loss or rather a part of it. And figuring out how to navigate that while facing all the feelings that go along with it is brutal.

But, by figuring out why letting go of people is so hard for you, it’ll make it easier for you to continue your life without them.

[Read: 23 big questions and steps to leave someone you love and not regret it]

Letting go of people is hard

If you’ve ever moved away from friends or gone through a breakup, you know how hard it is to let go of people. People matter.

Think about it: it can be hard to let go of an old sweater, even though it has a stain and doesn’t fit you anymore. So, it only makes sense that letting go of people would be so much worse. [Read: 26 honest steps to let go of someone you love and move on for good]

The emotional attachments we make stay with us even after the physical closeness has gone. This is why it is so hard to move on even when you haven’t seen someone in weeks or months. The memories and impact don’t just cease because the label of a relationship comes off.

[Read: 23 reasons why good relationships end even if there were no red flags]

Why is letting go of people so hard?

You can convince yourself over and over again that letting go of someone is the right thing to do. You can make sense of it and understand that letting go of people makes sense for you to move forward.

But, with that, letting go of people is still so hard. Why?

1. Fear of change

Letting go of people, especially someone you are close with, can feel like a huge shock to everything you know. They’ve become part of your daily routine.

So, when you’re trying to limit your contact with them, that change in your routine can be enough to cause you to stay hung up even after a relationship ends.

Maintaining the feelings you had, although painful, can bring you comfort when everything else has changed. [Read: How to stop self-destructive behavior and change your life for good]

2. The past

Something as traumatic as a breakup can cause feelings from the past to resurface. If you have trauma from previous events, experiencing those feelings again can make you feel like you’re reliving the first time you were hurt. Instead of letting go of people, you may cling to them due to your past.

The resurgence of old feelings, along with the pain of trying to let go of someone, can certainly lead to an immense struggle to let them go.

3. Loneliness

The fear of being alone is more powerful than you might realize. When we are faced with the possibility of loneliness, we may choose someone who is bad for us just to avoid being alone.

We cling to the wrong people or people from our pasts just to have a glimmer of connection. [Read: Autophobia – What it is, 25 signs, causes, and how to calm the fear of being alone]

4. Self-esteem

When we build our self-esteem on the success of our relationships or the love from someone else, letting go of that person can be truly devastating. Not only do you feel the rejection and pain of the end of a relationship but you blame yourself for it ending.

You put all your hope and faith into that person and depended on them. Now letting go of that person feels like the last thing you’re capable of. [Read: Emotional dependency and 20 signs you’re overly dependent on someone]

5. Hope

The hope for that chapter of your life to reopen can keep you clinging to someone. Letting go of people when you still want to be with them feels wrong. You want the possibility to reconnect and that hope is what keeps you from letting go.

6. Failure

By not letting go of people, you are, in a sense, in denial. If you don’t let go of them then maybe it isn’t over. Maybe things don’t have to change. Maybe you weren’t rejected. Accepting that you have to let go of someone is in a way, accepting failure.

When you expect a fairytale happy ending and that isn’t how it turns out, holding onto that person instead of moving on can make you feel like you didn’t fail.

7. Love

Love conquers all. Or does it? Love that is strong enough can keep you from letting go of people. When a friend asks why you can’t let go of your past relationship, a common answer is, “because I love them.”

That love can absorb you. It can take over your whole life. When that happens, letting go of that seems not just impossible but far too painful to even consider. [Read: How to unlove someone even if you feel like you can never forget them]

Signs you need to let go of someone

So, how do you know when you need to let go of someone? You might not think that you’re still hung up. Or, you might still believe there’s a chance you’ll get back together, and you don’t want to throw that away.

However, you’re here because you know deep down that you still need to let go. To give you that final push to convince you that now is the time to move on, here are the signs you need to let go of someone.

1. You’re always wondering what could have been

All you can think about is what could have happened, and the fairytale future you always imagined for your relationship. Maybe you would’ve been together forever, or had your dream wedding on the beach in St Tropez.

Of course, this is never going to happen, because you’ve broken up. But if you’re still dreaming about the future, that’s a sign that you need to learn how to let go.

2. You think of the person constantly, or at times when you’d rather not

You lie in bed at night, and all you can think about is that person. Every time there’s silence, your mind drifts back to focus on the one person you’d rather forget.

If you’re constantly thinking about the person you’ve lost—even when you’d rather be thinking of anything else—that’s a sign you need to let go.

[Read: 26 honest steps to let go of someone you love, move on, and find peace]

3. You spend a lot of time reliving memories or looking them up on social media

If you still haven’t let go of somebody, you’ll keep wanting to remember them. You’ll daydream about them and relive memories, or you might even look at old photos to remember what was so special about them.

Nowadays, you can easily wallow in your past through social media. However, stalking that person on Facebook is just a sign that you need to move on and let go.

4. You often bring them up when talking to friends

You’re always telling your friends about that funny thing your ex did, or any little thing that reminds you of them. When you’ve truly broken up and let go of somebody, you won’t feel the need to mention them.

So, if you keep bringing them up at every opportunity, it’s a sign that you need to start learning about letting go.

5. When you’re feeling down, they’re the first person you think to call

Had a bad day? You’ll shoot them a text. Even if they don’t reply, you still give it a try. Or, when something crappy happens and you need a chance to vent, it’s that person who you always think to call.

Letting go of people means not relying on them for emotional support anymore. You need to get to that point. [Read: 25 ways to let go of resentment, stop feeling bitter, and start living]

6. You make changes to your life or appearance to get them back

Maybe they’ll realize what they’re missing if you get a new haircut. Or, maybe you just needed to get fit to make them attracted to you again. If you just got into their favorite hobby or moved closer to them…

Stop right there. You don’t need to make changes to your life or appearance for anybody, let alone somebody you should forget.

If you find yourself thinking of making changes to yourself and your lifestyle to try to win anyone back, it means you need to let go.

7. You feel anxious or even angry when you see them

They just make your blood boil. When you see them on the street, at a party, or even on social media, it turns you into a seething ball of resentment and rage. On the other hand, you might also be terrified of seeing them. Just the mention of their name is enough to make you anxious.

When that person makes you anxious or angry, it’s a sign that part of you is still holding on to them, but it’s doing you no good. If they affect your feelings that severely, they’re taking up more space in your head than they should. If you let them go, you’ll feel so much more at ease.

[Read: Letting go of your ex – 15 ways to make it easier]

8. You blame them or want to get revenge for perceived slights

You see that person as having wronged you. The loss of your relationship is still hurting you, and you blame them for that hurt. You might even find yourself seeking revenge or trying to get your own back by making them feel pain too.

Don’t. That vengeful feeling is just a sign that you haven’t let go yet, even though you really need to. Relationships break down, it happens. There’s nothing you can do about it, and thinking you could change things is a waste of time.

What happens when you let go

Letting go isn’t the same as breaking up. A relationship can end, you can stop speaking to a family member, or you can break friends with somebody—but that doesn’t mean you’ve let go. You can still be affected by your feelings about that person.

Think about how holding on as it altering your life negatively. Are you losing focus? Are you struggling to continue fully living your life? Do you feel like your mind is occupied by the person or people you can’t let go of?

If you’re thinking about them all the time, then you’re in a tricky situation; you’ve broken up, but you haven’t let go. You’re still letting that person control you. So, you need to break up with them in your mind too.

[Read: Why being addicted to someone is not the same as being in love]

When you’re letting go of people, you’re taking back control of your own life. It’s a hard journey, but you have to break free if you want to find true happiness. You’ll never feel completely fulfilled if you waste time and energy holding on to the past. Letting go means gaining the freedom to be happy.

When you let go, you’ll also realize how much you’re capable of. It takes a huge amount of mental and emotional strength to move on and forget about somebody you loved in the past. If you can manage to break free—and it won’t be easy—you’ll show yourself that you can achieve the impossible.

How to let go of people

So, you know that you need to let go. You’ve read the signs, and you understand what wonderful things can happen if you can manage to release yourself.

But how do you actually go about letting go of people? Let’s find out how to let go, free your mind, and finally move on.

1. Recognize when it’s time

The first step is recognizing that you have a problem. Realizing that you’re showing the signs you need to let go, and that it’s now time to do it, are the first steps in the process.

[Read: Still in love with your ex? 19 ways to let go of the past]

Plus, recognizing when it’s time makes it much easier to actually move on. Moving on from a broken relationship is much easier when you know there’s no chance of the future you thought you’d have.

2. Identify limiting beliefs

Limiting beliefs are negative thoughts about yourself that hold you back. They can come along with low self-esteem. Do you often think things like “I’ll never find anybody else,” or, “I’m not capable of being alone”? Those are perfect examples of limiting beliefs.

Instead, try and focus on empowering and positive beliefs. Try telling yourself phrases like, “I’m worthy of love,” or “I have so much to look forward to.”

[Read: 42 rules to forget someone you loved and cared for]

3. Change your story

What story do you tell yourself about your life? Do you think of yourself as a hot mess who can’t hold down a relationship, and blame that for your breakup? Or do you see yourself as the black sheep of the family, doomed to be unloved like you’ve always been?

A negative story can be part of your limiting beliefs. So, like you changed those beliefs, you need to change your story. Just because something’s happened a certain way in the past doesn’t mean you’re defined by it

4. Cut off contact

Sometimes, you need to cut off contact with certain people. If you find yourself constantly thinking about that person, removing the ability to contact them might mean you don’t think about them as much. Or, if you still talk to them, cutting them off will help you start to build a life without them.

Your life is all about you now. For you to let go properly, you need to learn to be independent. Severing your last lines of contact might be the mental break you need to move on.

5. Stop the blame game

Stop trying to work out who’s responsible for the pain you’re feeling. It’s not the person you’ve lost, and you can’t get revenge on them or ever make them feel how you feel. Stewing in your pain and anger only hurts you.

So quit the blame game. You can’t change the past. Instead, work on improving yourself and preparing for the exciting future ahead. [Read: Repressed anger – 15 steps to let go before it eats you from within]

6. Embrace the “F” word

We don’t mean *that* “F” word—we’re talking about forgiveness. It’s often said that forgiving the person who hurt you is the best way to set yourself free, and it’s the best way to let go too. If you forgive that person, you don’t have to hang on to all that limiting pain.

However, it’s not just important to forgive the person you’ve lost. Remember to forgive yourself, too. Don’t beat yourself up over what went wrong.

7. Master your emotions

Breaking up with anybody—no matter the type of relationship—is often a source of anger and resentment. This is even more true if you were the one that got dumped. However, you’re not actually empowering yourself by feeling all that rage.

Doing things out of spite is never healthy, even if it gets them done. Negative feelings are always unhealthy, and can even cause illnesses like high blood pressure and anxiety if you’re not careful. So, you need to master your emotions if you want to master letting go of people.

8. Practice empathy

We know, it’s hard to feel empathy for the person who dumped you. But if you want to let go, you need to try and understand how this feels for the other person. They might not have meant to hurt you.

[Read: If you love something, set it free – how to do it right]

Even if they did want you to feel pain, try to understand that this was because of something wrong with them, not anything you did. They had their own emotional needs to fulfill.

9. Adopt an attitude of gratitude

Cheesy, right? But it works! If you’re grateful for what you have, what you’ve lost will suddenly seem far less important. So, concentrate on enjoying and appreciating the amazing things you have in your life right now.

Spend more time with your other friends to remind yourself how loved you are. Or, practice some self-care to make yourself feel special. Everything you do from now on should be done with an attitude of gratitude.

10. Talk to someone you trust

Speaking of friends, find someone you can treat as a trusted confidante. If you hold everything inside, it’ll only build up and get bigger until it becomes overwhelming. Handle it while you can still cope.

[Read: The secrets to letting go of the past, being happy, and looking to the future]

Find a friend, a relative, or another supportive person to share your emotional state with. You can even seek out a therapist if you feel you need professional advice. Therapists can help you learn how to let go, and how to have healthier relationships in the future.

11. Stay off social media

Social media seems to be full of couples, friends, families, and successful relationships. Basically, everything that you’ve lost is there. This isn’t the reality of course; your wounded mind is just hyper-aware of everything related to your loss.

Social media can be a dangerous place when you’re trying to let go of someone. It gives you an opportunity to reach out to them and shows you only the best sides of everybody else’s relationships. So, log off and stay off.

12. Take care of yourself

Remember, letting go of people isn’t a quick or simple process. It takes time, energy, and dedication to move on. You need to be kind to yourself throughout your journey because it’s easy to forget your needs and neglect your emotions.

If you practice proper self-care and love yourself, you’ll leave this situation much happier and healthier than you were before. [Read: How to let go of anger – release the rage and resentment]

13. Keep busy

It’s tempting to spend all day hiding in bed or comfort yourself by dwelling on your sadness. However, you need to keep busy if you want to let go of someone.

Letting go of people is all about teaching your mind that it doesn’t need to think about that person anymore. So, start a new routine or take up a new hobby. Keep a diary to help you organize your thoughts. Or even join a group and volunteer. You need to keep your mind off your loss if you want to let go.

14. Take the time to heal

Right now, you’re taking the first step in a long journey. It took a long time to build up that relationship. You could have spent years nurturing that bond, so it stands to reason that it’ll take just as long to unmake it.

As you let go, you’re going to grieve. You might feel worse than you did before you started, and that’s okay. Love yourself and don’t let anybody rush you along your journey. If you’re going to heal, you need time and space to do it properly.

[Read: He won’t commit but he won’t let go – what should you do now?]

Letting go of people is possible

When you’re fresh out of a breakup, be it with a partner, friend, or once-close family member, it can feel like letting go of people is impossible. But the thing is, it isn’t! If you can identify why you struggle to let go of people, you can work on it.

For example, maybe you’ve realized that you’re not letting go due to something external, like your past or fear of failure. Now, you can focus on that. You can work through what is truly holding you back rather than the person you can’t let go of.

Understanding the true reason you’re so hurt is the first step in overcoming what has been weighing you down. It might be simpler than you think.

Once you’ve worked out the reasons, you can be more rational about your past. You can look at the positives of the relationship you had.

Maybe you can finally appreciate the memories. You can even be thankful for how it changed you or made you who you are.

The best part is that you can have all of that while still letting them go. You can’t change the past. And you can’t change the truth. But you can change how you are reacting to it. You can learn to let go.

With time, you can break their hold on you. You can focus on yourself and your growth. Or, you can use your time to plan for your future. You can survive without holding onto people, what they meant to you, or what you had together.

Life must go on—and it will, whether you go on with it or not. Understanding yourself and learning the secrets of letting go of people frees you up for future happiness.

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...