10/24/2013 04:27 pm ET Updated Dec 24, 2013

Wheelchair Wisdom: Learning to Let Go

Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. -- Hermann Hesse

Mourning is letting go. But letting go of what? You'll recall a previous blog where I spoke of the role perception plays in our lives, and that we can literally be imprisoned by clinging to what we think life "ought" to be, instead of living according to what is right now, in this moment. The long list of feelings we experience around loss comes from holding on to our perceptions about the way things "ought to be." When we are able to let go of these perceptions, it is as if we open a door to a brand-new world of possibility.

I'll illustrate with a metaphor: Mourning our losses is a way to take apart the dam (our past perceptions of what life "should be") and let the river flow. When we do this, life reaches out to us in ways that we may never have even imagined before. Free of our perceptions of how life "ought to be," we provide ourselves with an opportunity to find another way of looking at the world. This is the source of genuine healing for all of us, able-bodied or not, a freedom from the illusions of life and an opening to the deeper meanings of our lives.

As you think about your own perceptions of mourning, keep the following four points in mind:

1. At first, nearly everyone who has grown up in this society has negative associations with mourning and letting go. Remember, however, that prejudices against expressing the feelings of loss are just that -- prejudices. One of the biggest challenges we face with learning to mourn and let go has to do with changing that prejudice in our own minds. Of course, that change is itself a letting go.

2. While it may appear that our lives are determined by forces outside us, over which we can never hope to have any control, we can free ourselves of these forces by looking at our own perceptions, mourning our losses, and letting go. We then open up to life's new opportunities and directions. Even when it appears that we have no choices, we must be careful not to shut down and close ourselves off from other people (and ourselves); when we do, we are closing ourselves off from choices presented to us at every moment.

3. The energy we put into denying and holding back feelings that we may consider negative or scary is a valuable personal resource that we can release and use for healing, ultimately embracing a new "quality of life."

4. Though it may at first seem like we are doing just the opposite, mourning and letting go of our perceptions about how we think life should be is a way to totally embrace our lives -- perhaps for the first time.

EXERCISE: Appreciation

Look around where you are right now. Find something to appreciate. Look especially for those often overlooked or taken-for-granted things -- colors, the design of a chair, light reflected through a bottle of water, how soft your cat's fur is...

Take a moment to appreciate it, and then find something else to appreciate. Do this a few times. In fact, do this a few times every day, and appreciation (and gratitude) will become a habit. This, my friends, is a blessing.

In gratitude,


Portions of this article were excerpted from Chapter 2, "What We Remember: Mourning Our Losses and Letting Go," pp 54-55, in my book, "You Are Not Your Illness."

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Contact Linda for practical spiritual counseling, and transform adversity into a spiritual awakening. Visit for more information.

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If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life around illness or any adversity and apply a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please find Linda's book, You Are Not Your Illness: Seven Principles for Meeting the Challenge on

Linda Noble Topf is author of You Are Not Your Illness: Seven Principles for Meeting the Challenge, Simon & Schuster, 1995. Wheelchair Wisdom: Awaken Your Spirit Through Adversity, will be published in 2014 by Berrett-Koehler & iUniverse.

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