Buddhist detachment and letting go can help with loss. If you can actually do it.

March 15, 2022

 Lotus is a sacred plant in Hinduism and Buddhism. This one’s beautiful.

The pain of missing someone who has transitioned can be almost unbearable. And, if I were honest: the pain of missing someone we love when they are no longer in our sentient lives is also unbearable.

I was inspired the other day by something a student of Buddhist monk and teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh said before the monk’s death. It was about detachment and letting go.

“My practice is not to wait for the moment when he takes his last breath.
Each day I practice to let him go, by letting him be with me, within me,
and with each of my conscious breaths.
He is alive in my breath, in my awareness.”

This is beautiful. It is brilliantly simple. And hard to do.

We want our loved one here with us, not in our breath and awareness.

We want to be attached, not detached.

We want to hold on, not let go.

And yet, if I were honest, for me, some degree of detachment has been effective in managing the deep grief and anxiety that surround loss.

So many of us hold the belief that life goes on (including me). And still, we find acceptance of someone’s transition horribly painful. It feels like the reverse of birth, doesn’t it?

If we really believe that life goes on and we will meet again, shouldn’t this be easier than it is?

I don’t know. But I do know that for loss of any kind, not just death, the Buddhist concept of detachment has helped me.

What do you think?

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4 comments on “Buddhist detachment and letting go can help with loss. If you can actually do it.
  1. Kathleen Canrinus says:

    A favorite Buddhist quote of mine is, “When I understand the goblet is already broken, every moment with it is precious.” (Achaan Chaa) Maybe this is what the Thich Nhat Hanh is saying in part too.

  2. Laurie Stone says:

    Seven years later, I still can’t believe my father is gone. He still feels near and I pray he is.

  3. I think it depends on how senseless a loss is. Losing a child or someone who is much too young is unnatural. It shouldn’t happen. Losing parents who have lived long or people who have endured long illnesses is natural and expected so it’s easier to deal with. But pets, who have much shorter lifespans but give you unconditional love can really break your heart. Staying busy doing things you love helps immensely.

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