How To Let Someone Go – 3 Most Important Things You Must Do

Dr. Gregory Sazima (author of Practical Mindfulness) shares his expert opinion on having mindful breakups.

Ending a relationship can be hard, extremely hard. Human beings are relational.  The majority of us thrive when we are in relationships that are healthy and mutually satisfying. Sometimes, however, ending relationships and letting someone go is a  necessary and difficult part of one’s life journey (by Carlin Barnes, MD).

8 practicing psychologists and psychiatrists were kindly agreed to share their professional experience and give us a few pieces of valuable advice on How To Let Someone Go – 3 Most Important THINGS You MUST DO.


Carlin Barnes is a Board-certified psychiatrist.  For the past fifteen years, she has practiced child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry.  She is an Associate Medical Director at a Fortune 100 managed care company.  Additionally, she has a thriving, diverse boutique private practice with patient clientele ranging from the worried/working well to accomplished authors to young, urban children and adolescents.

How To Let Someone Go – 3 Most Important THINGS You MUST DO

1.Don’t be afraid to seek professional counseling. Ending a relationship can be a very trying time in a person’s life.  When relationships end, oftentimes people can experience very overwhelming emotions including loneliness, anger, sadness, grief, resentment, and isolation. In fact, the loss of a relationship and the stress this causes can lead to serious mental health issues including clinical depression, clinical anxiety, and substance abuse. It’s perfectly okay to seek help from a trained mental health clinician to help gain extra support and help sort out your feelings when your relationship has ended.

2.Set appropriate boundaries. Having healthy boundaries are important. Relationship boundaries help you to take care of yourself — both in the relationship and especially after it has ended. Letting someone go is extremely difficult if there are blurred boundaries regarding important relationship issues such as communication, finances, and respect. It can be difficult to heal and let someone go if you remain in contact. Unfriend and unfollow on social media platforms. Establish a method of having limited to no text, email, or phone communications. Let go of cherished memories such as photos, cards, and keepsakes. Untangle and end co-mingled financial matters. If you must maintain necessary contact with the person, for example in a co-parenting relationship or a professional relationship, do your best to set boundaries that limit the frequency and intensity of the contact. Cordial, respectful, and as brief as possible is best.

3.Indulge in self-care! Remember to take care of yourself during this process. Be kind, compassionate, and patient with yourself. Surround yourself with positive and supportive people. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit. Learn a new hobby. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to stay present and not dwell on the past or the anxieties of the future.  Remember to find humor and joy. Practice forgiveness and gratitude.


Robert Weiss is Chief Clinical Officer of Seeking Integrity LLC, working with sex, porn, and substance/sex addicted men. He is an expert in the treatment of adult intimacy disorders and related addictions. A clinical sexologist and practicing psychotherapist, he has created intimacy-focused clinical treatment programs in the US, overseas, and for the US Military. He serves as a subject matter expert for major media outlets including CNN, NPR, The New York Times, and Newsweek, among others. He is the author of 10 books, including ProdependenceSex Addiction 101, and Out of the Doghouse. His Psychology Today blog, Love and Sex in the Digital Age, has over 18 million readers to date, and his podcast, Sex, Love, & Addiction, has had more than 550,000 downloads since its inception in 2019.

How To Let Someone Go – 3 Most Important THINGS You MUST DO

1.End the relationship fullyIf a relationship is over, it’s over. Don’t wait for the right time to end it. Don’t keep connecting via email, social media, and the like. Don’t text and don’t call. Block their number, social media access, and email if that’s what it takes to keep you on track. Don’t let transitory feelings of guilt or loneliness lead you back into a relationship that wasn’t working.

2.No ghosting. If you were enough of an adult to carry on an intimate relationship, then you are mature enough to face the other person to break it off. Among our most painful feelings are those that arise when we are abandoned with no explanation. It’s cruel. If you experienced active abuse, then you can and should end the relationship without discussion. Otherwise, please be kind enough to tell the other person why you are splitting up.

3.Get rid of the stuff. Get a big box. Put any and all physical memories of the relationship into the box. Then take the box and put it away (garage, closet, give to a friend). Take the photos, concert ticket stubs, gifts, and the like and put those memories away – at least for a few months. Don’t keep things around that will remind you of the good or the bad of your time together. Be sad and miss your ex if that’s your truth, but don’t torture yourself with objects (or media) that bring up feelings of your time together. This is a time for grieving, not romanticizing what you had.

BONUS ADVICE: Don’t post nasty things about your ex on social media after the breakup. This makes you look bad, not your ex. Plus, do you want the new person you’ve fallen for to see you wasting time and energy on your ex?


Sharon Saline is a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 30 years of experience, is a top expert on ADHD, anxiety, learning differences, and mental health challenges and their impact on the school and family dynamics. Her unique perspective, a sibling of a child who wrestled with untreated ADHD, combined with decades of academic excellence and clinical experience, assists her in guiding families as they navigate from the confusing maze of diagnoses and conflict to successful interventions and connections. Dr. Saline funnels this expertise into her new book, What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew: Working Together to Empower Kids for Success in School and Life.

There are so many scenarios when we have to let people go: stages of raising children, especially when they leave for college, their first job, partnership, or marriage; ending of relationships when things haven’t worked out, or the death of a loved one. While these situations differ wildly, there is one common thread: in order to let someone go, we have to acknowledge what they’ve meant to us, accommodate the loss of the previous connection and adapt to the new status of the relationship. These three steps allow us to understand what has changed and helped us stay open for whatever lies ahead. I call this the 3A’s of letting go.

How To Let Someone Go – 3 Most Important THINGS You MUST DO

1.Acknowledge: When we need to move on from a relationship or change the nature of the relationship, it’s hard to process the shifts without first acknowledging what this person has meant to us. Sometimes, as in raising kids, the process of letting go is developmental and gradual. Other times, as in a romantic or friendship break-up, people have grown apart, see things differently or done something hurtful. Coming to terms with the value of the relationship helps ease your sadness. You acknowledge the good you’ve shared so you can move on without negativity or blame. Ask: What has been meaningful to you about knowing this person?

2.Accept: Whenever relationships shift or end, there’s some loss involved. We may be disappointed, frustrated, aggravated, or anxious. We may be resisting the new structure of our connection, feel self-righteous about our anger or, when there’s been betrayal or abuse, feel haunted by traumatic behaviors. When it’s time to let go of someone, it means we have to grasp a new sense of emptiness. Instead of pushing these feelings away, talk about them with a caring friend, partner, relative, or therapist. Ask: What do you regret about letting this person go?

3.Adapt: Change can be uncomfortable, anxiety-provoking, and frustrating. Letting go may involve anger, hurt, or frustration. Staying present and noticing what’s happening inside is the best way to cope with these emotions. You don’t have to fix anything but you do need to learn how to tolerate your distress without sinking into resentment or helplessness. Life has many lessons to help us grow and learn and these are the pearls to carry forward. Ask: What have you learned about yourself from this relationship that you can take with you?


Rock To Recovery – Harnessing the healing energy of music through songwriting, playing as a band, and recording.

Constance Scharff is an internationally recognized speaker and author on the topics of addiction recovery and mental health. She currently serves Rock to Recovery, a music-based addiction, and trauma treatment group, as science and research chair on their board of directors and just launched a new book Rock to Recovery: Music as a Catalyst for Human Transformation

How To Let Someone Go – 3 Most Important THINGS You MUST DO

1.Prepare Yourself with Support – Especially if the relationship has been a significant one, you will likely need support to maintain your boundaries. If the relationship is abusive, you may require the resources of a shelter or other forms of protection. In all cases, it will be easier to make healthy, growth-oriented choices if you have good friends or family around you to remind you of the progress you’re making in the more difficult moments.

2.Recognize that Growth Isn’t Linear -There will likely be periods when you will question your decision to end or significantly modify a relationship. Create a list of the reasons why you made the choice or phone a friend who supports you. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated or talked back into a relationship you don’t want or maybe unhealthy.

3.Remember Your Worth – It’s likely that you are letting someone go out of a sense of self-preservation. We sometimes love and connect with people long after the relationship has become unhealthy for us and/or them. When we learn to value ourselves, our health and well-being, it becomes easier to set boundaries that includes allowing people to move out of our lives. We cannot change people or protect them from the consequences of their actions. Taking care of your needs will allow you to populate your world with people who respect you and engage with you in healthy ways.


Dr. William Van Gordon is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Professor of Contemplative Psychology at the University of Derby (UK). In the last 5 years alone, he has published three books and over 100 full-text academic papers on contemplative psychology, including in some of the world’s leading psychology and medical journals. William developed “Meditation Awareness Training,” an evidence-based intervention that uses contemplative psychology principles and techniques as a means of improving health and well-being.

How To Let Someone Go – 3 Most Important THINGS You MUST DO

1.Understand that the situation is no one’s fault. Do not blame the other person and certainly do not blame yourself. Just relax and clear your mind.

2.Begin to really appreciate your own company and the freedom to do what you want. Get out there and enjoy yourself. Do new things that you have always wanted to do but never had the chance.

3.Remember that this life is very precious – every moment is unique and only happens once. However, if you mope around feeling sorry for yourself, you will be unable to experience the moment and will miss out on life. Observe your mind as it tries to bring up memories and relive emotions. Try to objectify these memories and understand that they exist only in your mind. Try to change perspective and laugh about the situation. Don’t hold on because the past is history and cannot be relived.


Polly Young-Eisendrath is a psychologist, writer, speaker, and Jungian analyst who has published 18 books (translated into 20 languages) including The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-ImportanceThe Cambridge Companion to Jung, and The Present Heart: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Discovery. Her most recent book Love Between Equals answers the question “What IS love, anyway?” She maintains a clinical practice in Central Vermont and hosts the podcast Enemies: From War to Wisdom that provides a fresh look at human hostilities and what to do about them. She is a life-long Buddhist practitioner and a Mindfulness teacher.

When we decide we want to leave a relationship in which we have developed a pair bond or an attachment bond, then we might wonder why it feels so painful to go through with our decision. In my more than three decades as a couple of therapists (see, for example, Dialogue Therapy for couples, You’re Not What I Expected and Love Between Equals for details), I have said to partners many times, “Whether you choose to stay and face your problems, or to leave your relationship, you will feel pain, anxiety, and confusion. There is no easy way to handle a ruptured bond.”

How To Let Someone Go – 3 Most Important THINGS You MUST DO

1.Recognize the nature of grief and embrace it. Grief is part of our human design. It’s the experience we all have when we lose someone with whom we have been pair-bonded, and it stems from our earliest bond with our mother. If we lose our primary caregiver before about the age of five (and she is not replaced), we die. And so, our entire emotional system is designed to go on High Alert when a bonded person separates from us, even if it’s our own choice. Grief over a lost attachment bond feels like the pain of surgery or the death of a loved one: it hurts, you feel afraid and confused, and you keep wondering if you can really live without the person. That state can last as long as a year. Don’t let these feelings and anxieties undermine your decision if you have made it thoughtfully and carefully.

2.Take care of yourself as though you have had surgery or a car accident. Get plenty of sleep, eat well (you may have to force yourself, but remember, you need the nutrition to heal), and exercise gently. Treat yourself as you would treat your pet when it’s wounded. Be kind. Don’t push and pull on yourself or your experience. Increase self-care and meditation (if you do it). Keep track of your night dreams; they will help you get through the grief and remember what was good about the relationship.

3.Keep up your self-confidence. If the breakup was initiated by your partner, you are likely to feel humiliated and ashamed. You may want to hide or lie or cover up. Instead, begin to look around at other possibilities. What’s out there in terms of websites or friends or former lovers to comfort you? If you initiated the break-up, you might feel extra energy and a boost of “let’s live again!” (right alongside the grief; remember the grief is part of your biology and is not personal to the break-up). Engage in the impulse to live again, but don’t jump into a sexual relationship again until the grief is mostly resolved. Jumping into sex during grief is just bad emotional hygiene; however, increasing your self-confidence, even while grieving, is good emotional hygiene. And so, look around. Feel alive as much as you can, but be cautious about new bonds until the grief symptoms are mostly gone.

As human beings, we come into this world in a couple of relationships – infant and mother. Our emotional and relational template is dyadicOnce we feel identified with another person through a sexual pair bond, typically after three or four times of having sex in a personal way, then we are primed for feeling at home in that bond. When we lose the bond, even if we want to lose it, we feel the pain and pangs of grief because it feels like we have lost our home. When our primary bond is threatened, we experience separation anxiety (jealousy, searching behavior, and fear of loss) and when that bond is broken, we experience grief. For these reasons, we need to take seriously the making and breaking of our pair bonds.


Lynn Zubernis is a licensed clinical psychologist and professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Her new book, with chapters by the actors and fans of the television show Supernatural, is There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done: Actors and Fans Celebrate the Legacy of Supernatural which traces the impact a television show can have on both the actors who bring it to life and its fans. She has also published many other books about how our passion for the shows, films, music, books, and games we love enriches our lives, including her first book written with the actors of Supernatural Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Changed Lives, and the behind the scenes fangirl road-trip memoir Fangasm. 

How To Let Someone Go – 3 Most Important THINGS You MUST DO

“Letting go” of someone is not easy, especially when it wasn’t your idea in the first place. Most of us have had the experience of a breakup that we didn’t initiate, and the struggle that followed to let go of that person. But even if we are the ones initiating the breakup, sticking with it can be difficult no matter how many times we tell ourselves it’s “for the best.”

There are three important things to remember in order to successfully let someone go when a relationship has ended, and they are all related to one thing: grieving.  Loss is a part of life for us as humans, but it’s something that is difficult for all of us too. A relationship that has ended, whatever the circumstances of that ending, entails a significant loss. If it was not our idea, it’s easier to understand that there’s loss and grief involved – but even relationships that we decide to end can be difficult to truly let go of.

1.The first important thing to do in order to let someone go is to allow yourself to realize that you have experienced a loss. This sounds simple, but it often is not, especially if you initiated the breakup. If there were problems in the relationship of any kind, you may be tempted to think of its ending as a positive thing – and in fact, it might be! That doesn’t mean that it isn’t also a loss. Even if the break-up is ultimately a good thing, the ending of a relationship is always a loss. There may have been harmful aspects to the relationship, even abuse; there were probably also things that felt good and that will be missed. Familiarity, a sense of security, being part of a couple – these are important things that we all value, and losing them is difficult. A relationship break-up has an impact on the way we define ourselves, so there’s an impact on our identity too – as partner, spouse, wife, husband. All of these are losses. Be kind to yourself and let yourself acknowledge those losses.

2.The second important thing to do is to sift through the advice of well-meaning friends and relatives who may not understand the losses experienced during a break-up, especially one that you initiated. If there were harmful things about the relationship or some kind of abuse, people who care will be understandably relieved about it ending. That may make it difficult for them to remember that there are also losses involved. When we experience a loss but those around us downplay or deny it, psychologists call that a stigmatized loss. The problem with a stigmatized loss is that it makes it more difficult to talk about openly; you may be worried that if you talk about how hard it is not having that familiar wake-up phone call every day, loved ones will be dismissive or even accusatory. Sensing that a loss is stigmatized often makes people stop reaching out to others for support, which makes dealing with the loss harder.

3.The third and most important thing you must do after a breakup is exactly what is most difficult to do when a loss is stigmatized – grieve. Give yourself permission to feel the losses you’re experiencing. Find people you can to openly about how you’re feeling. There may be a lot of conflicting feelings when a relationship ends, especially if it was a difficult one – relief, joy, anger, sadness, fear. We all need validation that a mix of feelings, even opposite ones, is perfectly normal when we’ve experienced loss. Grief that is complicated and unsupported is known as disenfranchised grief. When we experience this kind of grief, the process of letting someone else go takes longer because of the lack of support. Allow yourself the full range of your feelings and find validation for all those emotions, either from a friend or family member who is understanding or from a therapist or counselor. Breakups are hard, and it takes time to work through all the complex feelings that are a normal reaction. Give yourself that time to grieve.


Greg Sazima, MD is a psychiatrist, educator, and author, based in Northern California.  He teaches physicians-in-training at Stanford’s Family Medicine Residency Program. His new book, Practical Mindfulness: A Physician’s No-Nonsense Guide to Meditation for Beginners, is available now.

How To Let Someone Go – 3 Most Important THINGS You MUST DO

As the oldies station on the radio says, breaking up is hard to do.  The length, commitment, and shared assets and relationships in the bond can make it even harder. Relationships are complex, cultivated things. Care should be taken about ending them.  With the inevitable adaptation many of us have made to managing solitude due to the pandemic, it may even seem easier to throw overboard than salvage what could be an ultimately fulfilling connection together.

Obviously, if the relationship is toxic or abusive, we take action to protect ourselves.  Otherwise, deliberation over impulse should be the overriding theme.  Here are three ideas, based on both mutual respect and mindful self-awareness, to guide our process: think before, during, and after.

  • Before: we sit with it. Breakups are often the product of provocative events – arguments, betrayals, minor disagreements that go nuclear – that generate an inner tension that is hard to hold.   An impulsive move to break up can serve as an escape hatch, a quick solution to that intensity, but without much regard for the after-effects.  Taking a break or separation, then engaging the problem in contemplation, allows for all of the mind, not just the “fight/flight,” threat-driven aspect, to weigh in.

That “sitting” can actually include, well, sitting, as in meditation; informal discussions with trusted others and more formal ones with a psychotherapist also help.  The main point here is to respect the gravity of the decision and our own standards of conduct, even in working through conflict.

  • During: we should be clear – and civil – in our communications. Using technology such as texting and email (or an abrupt end of that data flow, via “ghosting”) can allow for what seems like a clean severing of the tie. A quick, sterile, or mean-spirited text may be a painless or vengeful act for the sender, but also a heartless one.  Better to “go high.”

If it’s really goodbye, make it clear.  Solid boundaries communicated to the other reduces the risk of  “maybe still together?” vagueness and an unhealthy “limbo” state persisting.  That kind of blurriness about the state of things only generates more suffering, often for both parties.

That clarity includes setting expectations going forward.  Besides the obvious decisions on co-parenting and mutually owned stuff, it involves ongoing, shared friendships with others. This is often conflict-laden stuff.  But it’s better to attempt to address it upfront and peacefully than in a post-breakup scrum for “allies” that are more likely to alienate those supports.  If there were positive bonds with the family of the significant other, consider some show of gratitude; even a simple, civil goodbye can suffice. Our absence from their lives may be a potential loss of respect, to soften.

  • After: Take some time to grieve. In the grieving process, the obsolete world inside of our minds (we’re together!) is for a moment (or longer) at odds with the change, outside reality (we’re not!) The inside of the head does not match the outside of the head.  How we make that adjustment,  so “inside = outside,” that’s the process, with a sequence of stuff that can arise: from anxiety to judgmental anger to rationalizing “woulda/coulda/shoulda’s,” and to a “thud” in the disappointment of lost wishes and expectations.  Hopefully, that gauntlet leads to the acceptance of a new steady-state and moving on.

Any of those states of intensity can be hard to hold, and a quick pivot into distracting, “rebound” behaviors and relationships can be inviting.  Filling that momentary need for comfort is understandable but can lead to unfair burdens on the partner/fixer/target.  It also can attract individuals who traffic in the rescue of the heartbroken — often a recipe for an unbalanced, unhealthy next relationship.  Again, taking some time in mindful contemplation can help identify and adapt to the range of feelings and thoughts that come with this path.

Letting go can be impulse-driven or deliberate, shameful or self-respecting.  It makes good sense to use some time and self-awareness to manage and learn from it.

Practical Mindfulness

A Physician’s No-Nonsense Guide to Meditation for Beginners

Training exercises that work. Practical Mindfulness approaches mindfulness and meditation from a hands-on, how-to, irreverent perspective–appealing directly to smart readers curious about meditation. By applying Dr. Sazima’s training routines, learn to spend more time in real engagement with the world. Cultivate a deeper appreciation of experiences, from the everyday to the extraordinary, and live your life more fully, wisely, and joyfully.

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