How to Heal When you Choose to Lose

I am always talking about letting go for total transformation, but I have never touched on how incredibly hard it can be to let go. When you know in your heart that you have to let go of something really big like your career, friends or even a partner in order to transform, you are intentionally choosing to feel a big loss.


A loss is typically something most people choose to avoid. Choosing loss on purpose is a very courageous thing to do. The loss of something you love or are accustomed to can create sadness, grief, loneliness, anxiety, fear, depression or many other emotions that most people would consider negative. It’s hard to choose to intentionally create something in which you’ll have to heal from. 

When you choose to create this loss in your life, you are choosing to let go of what is holding you back from greatness. It can be very hard to see that greatness from where you stand if you are in despair. It is easy to waiver on your decision and talk yourself into reverthealing back into the unsavory situation you were in because it was much more comfortable and more certain than the scary, unknown territory that you are about to embark on.

“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know” my Mother used to say. This kind of thinking will only keep you stuck in your own version of hell for the rest of your life. It may be hard for the people in your life to understand that you are not comfortable with just being comfortable and you may not feel supported by them. These people in your life, the voices in your head and the ease of keeping yourself at status quo can all be obstacles to contend with once you begin the road to transforming your life, especially if it means letting go of things that are “stable”. Prepare to be judged by others, and even yourself.

“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. “~ Mom

How do you know if it’s time to let go of something really big?

I do not believe that you have to move to a new city, completely change your image or shave off all of your hair to transform your life. Everybody’s situation is different. When I started to plan my long-term future, I found a valuable exercise to use from Brian Tracy’s book, “Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want—Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible” called zero-based thinking.

In Zero Based thinking, you ask yourself this question: “Knowing what I now know, is there anything that I am doing today that I wouldn’t start again if I had to do it over?” From the book: “No matter who you are or what you are doing, there are activities and relationships in your life that, knowing what you now know, you wouldn’t get involved in.” The exercise continues by saying, “If there is something in your life that you wouldn’t get into again today, your next question is, How can I get out, and how fast?

Asking yourself this question is a simple way of understanding what is and is not working in your life. When you are trying to make drastic changes, create meaningful goals and execute them and become the person you have always wanted to be, there are going to be things, activities, and people that are not helping you reach your potential. This is a great exercise to quickly find out who and what needs to go.

Knowing that something in your life needs to go and actually having it be gone are two different things. If we could just wave a magic wand and have something disappear, we would have let go of a lot of our baggage long ago. But since we don’t want to purposefully put ourselves through pain and anguish, we hold on for far too long, making the loss even more unbearable.

If we could just wave a magic wand and have something disappear, we would have let go of our baggage a long time ago.


Just because you are the one who chose to let go does not make it any less painful. If you don’t allow yourself to process the emotions that are necessary to heal from the loss, you will stay stuck. Moving through the e-motions (emotions in motion) no matter how hard it is, will help you transition to the next emotion, to the next and so on. When you are done processing, you will be able to enjoy new wonderful emotions and feelings that are waiting for you on the other side.

How to move through your e-motions with mindfulness

Mindfulness is not only for being present during times when we are being grateful and savoring the moment. Mindfulness is important when feeling not so great as well. When going through a loss, it’s easy to want to distract ourselves with mindless activities. If the pain is debilitating, then a little bit of time watching some comedies and eating junk food can be ok- but remember, the law of motion also works with the law of e-motion. If you let yourself go down that spiral, you will keep moving in that same downward direction.

We all know how hard it is to get the motivation to get that momentum going back up again. A better way to work through your emotions is through minding yourself. By being “with” yourself and your emotions you will gain clarity on how you truly feel, instead of just numbing the pain. The emotions have to move somewhere. This is why people sometimes have sudden bursts of rage, upset or tears at inopportune moments. These pent-up or stuck emotions have to come out someplace. Why not mindfully choose to move through them at your own pace in the comfort of your own home?

The R.A.I.L. Method

This method is extremely effective to help you move through any emotions.  It works for cravings, anxiety, sadness, grief, fear, you name it. I have combined what I have learned about the very effective R.A.I.N. technique and the teachings of Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hahn. I have used this to help recover from a recent loss and many of my clients have had great results using this method.

Recognize What’s Going on in your body: Just allow the feelings in your body to happen. Even saying the metaphors out loud or in your mind can help you move past them. “I have a lump in my throat”, “It feels like my heart is being squeezed by a vice”. Just imagine that area with an actual vice or the color of the lump. Focus on that for a few moments.

We are programmed to always try to make ourselves feel better. We numb ourselves so we don’t have to feel this way. But these feelings are natural, and we are human. If we want to feel better in the long run, allowing ourselves to feel the gamut of emotions in your body for a short time will bring us to more positive emotions much faster than you could imagine. If you notice that the feelings in your body move from one place to another, this means that your e-motions are in motion! This is a good thing.

Allow and Accept: Allow the experience to be there, just as it is. This is when you stop all judgment. Seriously, stop it! When your mind starts to go to the story, gently allow that thought to float away from your awareness. Then become aware of the feelings in your body. We are programmed to distract and numb ourselves when we feel something that is uncomfortable or “negative”. This is the time to give yourself permission to really feel them. Crying is a good thing too. If you let yourself really, really cry, you can run out of tears. Just remember, no judgment here. This is not a pity party.

Introduce yourself to the emotion: Once you have identified what emotion is there, say hello to it. “Hello fear, I know you are here.” Breathe deeply and close your eyes. Tell your emotion that you are also here. ”I know you are here, and I am here for you.” Like a mother picks up a crying baby to give them comfort, your job is to be there to take care of the emotion.

You don’t have to do anything other than be there. Remember that emotions are not you or who you are. You are separate from them, and therefore can recognize them, take care of them and assist them on working their way on their e-journey. Being the observer of our emotions sometimes leads to even more difficult emotions arising to the surface. Take care of those too. You will see that they will pass and you will eventually start having much more tolerable and enjoyable emotions again. This process can take some time, but it is so worth it.

Love and Kindness:  Try a physical gesture. If your heart is hurting, place your hand on your heart in a loving way. Stroke yourself on the cheek or give yourself a self-hug. Have compassion for yourself. You are going through something difficult. This is the time to be there for yourself. Say, “It’s going to be ok”. Being present, giving yourself time to feel the way you feel and offering yourself gentle loving understanding and total presence can really begin to make you feel loved. Don’t get into any story about anything. Do all this with mindfulness.

If you are starting to derail

Sometimes things are just too hard to deal with. It does not mean that there is something wrong with you. If you are unable to mind yourself, don’t numb yourself with booze or drugs. Don’t try to distract yourself with mindless activities like comparing your life to your friends lives on social media. Ask someone who cares about you to mind you. You should always seek the loving kindness of friends and family when going through a crisis or trauma.

If you experience depression or feelings of hurting yourself, please seek professional help immediately. No judgment! Be there for yourself, and let others be there for you. Know when you have had enough and get help when you need it. If you have chosen to let go of something that is causing you grief, but you know it’s the best thing for you, stay strong. If you go through the process with courage, understanding, and compassion, you are on the road to your life transformation. Don’t look back!

If you are on a mission to improve your life, check out my other posts.


  1. Noaa

    Thank you for writing this. This post is great. If I could do things all over, I wouldn’t have chosen the career path I have chosen. However, It’s gotten me to where I am today and its allowed some freedoms, but now more than ever, I feel like change is eminent. Unfortunately, I do not want to go back to school so, I’ll have to figure this out somehow.

    1. Michelle Tolan

      I know it’s a hard thing to let go of something when we have invested so much in it (time, money, ourselves) and it takes a lot of bravery and sacrifice to start over. But ask yourself, if learning something new could lead to a more meaningful and satisfying life, would it be worth it? If you find something that makes your heart soar, a little training might actually be enjoyable, no?

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