What do forgiveness and letting go mean for someone with cancer? Why do we hold on to fear and resentment, and what are the consequences? How can we let go of these negative feelings and emotions to live fully after a cancer diagnosis?
In observance of Global Forgiveness Day, we are sharing the words of Lynne Eldridge, MD — a lung cancer physician and author of Avoiding Cancer One Day at a Time — who explained the importance of cancer survivorship and the art of letting go.
What Does “Forgiveness” and “Letting Go Mean?
A common misunderstanding about forgiving and letting go is that it’s synonymous with giving up. No, it doesn’t mean you are giving someone who hurt you a pass. In actuality, it means:
- Letting go of any negative thoughts you may harbor, which do not contribute nor deduct from your ability to live.
- Identifying and then releasing deep-rooted fears and resentments to become free enough to enjoy positive emotions.
Although forgiveness is an essential step in letting go, it doesn’t mean forgetting your past and ignoring how the words and actions of others have hurt you. Forgiveness and letting go mean you no longer rehearse and dwell on the past, no matter how much pain was flung your way. In this manner, forgiveness is healing.
Why Is It Easier to Hold on to Pain and Fears?
If anger, resentment, and hatred serve no purpose in your life and harms you, why choose to hang on so tight? Often, it’s because we haven’t recognized our deep-seated fears and anger. In some cases, these feelings almost become our identity. And yet, there are other times when we hold on to our pain in the form of “victim mentality,” which is a mindset that whispers, “You win, you are a valuable person and rehearsing ways you have been slighted and harmed proves your value.” Thankfully, there are ways, beyond bottling up anger and resentment, that can assure you that your feelings matter.
What Are the Consequences of Not Letting Go?
While letting go may not improve your prognosis, it will do one thing for sure: free you from wasting your hours on negativity. Instead, letting go allows you to do other activities that make you happy and grateful.
What Should Someone with Cancer Let Go Of?
To begin your journey towards healing, you may want to let go of:
- Frustration with your diagnosis.
- Anything that starts with the phrase: “What if?”
- All that goes along with the phrases “could have, would have, and should have.”
- Your relationship with friends and family, which almost always change after a cancer diagnosis.
10 Steps to Forgiving and Letting Go to Live
Once you are ready to let go and move forward, try these ten steps.
- Name Your Burden. A crucial first step in letting go is to recognize your sources of fear, anger, anxiety, and bitterness. Until you identify whatever is standing between you and happiness, it will be difficult to address it.
- Start a Journal. Keeping a journal is an excellent way to describe and express everything that bothers you. That said, it is important to use journaling to define and address your thoughts.
- Reflect. All the pain you have experienced, you have probably re-lived mentally over and over again. Take one last moment to review and reflect on matters that have caused you to be angry. Feel your emotions wholly, as you prepare to let them go.
- Express Yourself. Expressing your emotions is one way to acknowledge how you feel, not just for yourself but to others. Whether talking aloud to yourself, crying, or screaming — let it all out. No good will come out of concealing your feelings.
- Forgive. To cancer patients and healthy individuals alike, the most challenging step in letting go is learning to forgive. In most circumstances, you may need to forgive another person. But sometimes, it is yourself you need to forgive.
- Make Amends. Is there someone in your life who holds a deep grudge against you? If yes, you don’t necessarily need to ask for forgiveness. But for loved ones who, essentially, are forgiving people themselves and have been by your side since day one, try bringing up an issue (once) and ask for forgiveness. It may astound you how a simple request for peace can tug on heartstrings and bring warmth to even the coldest of hearts
- Reframe Your Mindset. Cognitive reframing is viewing certain experiences in a different light. In a nutshell, it is a way of shifting your perception. For instance, rather than mourning your hair loss during chemotherapy, you can focus on the positive and consider how breezy it feels to have a bald head, or how you don’t have to shave your legs for a while.
- Pray, Meditate, or Commune With Nature. Spirituality plays a powerful role in releasing fear and anger. Some people find comfort in praying, while others prefer meditation, deep breathing, or creating art. Some cancer patients also find solace by walking outside in nature. Allowing yourself to enjoy the luxury of tranquility, while at the same time, deciding to let go of fears and resentment can propel you towards living joyfully in the moment.
- Visualize Yourself at Peace. Trying the relaxation technique Guided Imagery may help you manage stress and reduce tension in your body.
- Replace Your Resentment with Something Else. Fear and anger form a poison that you drink yourself and force upon others. If instead, you were to replace the time you spend dwelling on past hurts with activities you love, wouldn’t you be happier?
Repeat these steps as needed.
Even after overcoming issues that have caused outrage and bitterness in the past, you will inescapably have moments when negative emotions pop up uninvited again. And, being human, new issues that stir anger in our lives will always arise. When that happens, try to take a deep breath, and remember what you’ve learned from this read.
New Hope Unlimited offers a unique cross between conventional and alternative cancer treatments. If you are looking for holistic therapies that target the cause of your disease, contact us at 480-757-6573. Because if you’ve lost faith, we will provide you with New Hope.