November 4, 2015
There are so many times when you just have to let go, and hope things turn out okay.
One of my friends recently passed away, at age 37. I was immediately scared for my friend, and what he must have been going through, and sad for his family, and friends. He was an amazing person; someone I admired for many things, but I also worried about him some times.
When I found out he passed, I immediately felt a pang of guilt, because I had not seen him for some time, and wished I had made the effort. You always wonder if you bumped into them, whether you could have provided some magic that changed the outcome.
I debated about putting his picture up, as if it were taboo to look upon the face of a truly bright young person, who has left our surroundings, too soon.
Time is a tricky thing, and how you look at people, even the same people, always changes.
If right now, as you look my friend in his eye, on your screen, you feel something you don’t like, I apologize. However, if you ever revisit this essay, in the next several months or years, I guarantee you will feel differently, seeing the face of a friend, who went missing out of your life.
His funeral was just this past month, and I was planning on going. At the last minute, however, there was a change in the schedule, and I was unable to attend. If I was more organized, I might have been able to make it work, and meet his family, and grieve with his loved ones.
Instead, I attended a function with my Daughters, which I am hoping he will forgive me for, as I will have many more opportunities to spend time with my girls, but he will only have one funeral.
I used part of my inner dialogue to talk to him, during his funeral, even though I was many miles away. We discussed his life. We talked about good stuff and bad stuff. I told him why I decided to spend my time, the way I did.
I hope he understands that funerals are something I will always struggle with, even his. I have been to too many funerals already, even if you only include my Wife’s.
And you do not require temple walls to grieve, or any specific place to share sacred thoughts. I think about Him often, and Her even more.
I hope he respects how precious I view my time with my Daughters. I will probably always feel the need to overcompensate, because of what my girls have already lost. I believe they need twice the time with one parent, to make up for it, even though I know it’s still not enough.
And so, the letting go of my friend begins, and my mind wanders to other transitions.
I remember how scared I felt, the first time I let go of my Daughter, when she was learning how to ride with the Training Wheels off.
I felt like I was holding her, as she dangled from a cliff, and if I let go for even a millisecond, it would be a disaster.
The first time she actually wiped out, by jack knifing her front tire against the frame, she skinned her knee. That sound that came out of her mouth, sent screaming sirens of panic throughout my gut.
I ran to her, like I was the First Responder to reach Baby Jessica, in the well. I cradled her, to try to seal skin back together.
It has been many months of riding without training wheels by now, and there have been more wipe outs. Each one hurts my Daughter about the same. As my confidence in her grows however, they seem to hurt me less.
We all begin to slowly let go of everything, as we get older.
I loosened my grip, on the vicarious pain I felt, soon after her first falter. And with each subsequent one, I gave her more of the responsibility of her own feelings: both the joy of the wind in her hair, and the possibility of crashes during practice.
You would think that if you started letting go of your child, at appropriate moments, somehow your bond would lessen. Instead, they learn more about the real life they are charged with living, every time you lovingly loosen your grip over their reality.
When they have traveled too far away, from the safety of your embrace, they will reach back, and grasp more strongly than before. And every extra support creates the ability to fly further.
Letting go of your child’s pain also entails handing over their accomplishments. This is okay, for even if you taught your child your best talents, the torch has been passed, along with the accolades.
In the Narcissistic emptiness, of watching your child do the things you are no longer capable of, there is plenty of room for pride, support, and appreciation. And despite not being able to control others, or the future, you can choose to be the best parent possible, or at least the best version of you, in the many important roles you are given.
It is also important to realize that you are not the only one letting go.
I feel my own Father letting go of me.
In some ways, we are closer than ever, and he seems truly interested in what is going on in my life. But in other ways, he is fully invested in his own habits and interests, developed over his 70 years of living. He no longer owns my accomplishments, and my actions are no longer his prized possessions. And now, I am able to understand why.
Doctors have no special immunity to death. Some may struggle more than others with it. In our case, that thing we said would never happen, had even promised ourselves; happened. I was especially sad when She died, the suffering and numbness finally finding a home in my melancholic feelings.
Letting go is a necessary, and somewhat bidirectional process. It can start with your own epiphanies, or by life kicking you in the face, out of nowhere. Either way, there is a change in your perspective, in some major way.
Letting go of our children’s accomplishments, reminds us that we are no longer the one’s accomplishing. Letting go of the people we love, whom have passed, means glaring your own mortality, in its glassy unyielding eye.
Important losses always feel like something is personally being taken away. The duration of pain, seems somehow related to how long you decide to hold on for.
Holding on to Love is always worth it, but needing that person to physically hold you back, becomes less so.
And letting go of the idea that you are going to live forever, is a tough one. Acknowledging your own mortality is something so unsettling, we have created entertainment to distract us.
But we all start to let go, little by little.
It starts with the letting go of your vanity, which is not usually a voluntary process. Noticing the wrinkles, hair loss, extra fat, and general droop, of your once youthful self, always starts a reflection about the slow breakdown.
These first observations about yourself often causes anxiety, for as long as you try to hold on, to some earlier version of you.
But when you let go of your addiction to vanity, a funny thing starts to happen. The intense daily cravings to examine your face, body or weight, slowly subsides. And it is replaced, with a much more stable sense of self worth.
You start to rediscover all of those cool other parts about yourself that have real currency, in your life.
It’s almost as if, on some unconscious level, you finally wise up, and decide to stop playing a game, you no longer have any hope of winning.
Even though I wrote this, as if I had conquered vanity, or even the thought of my own mortality, I will assure you, it is often a struggle. It is easy to not pay attention, and just live life like it is eternal. It is harder still, to suffer the panic, of its rumination. And yet I continue to struggle at this barrier, and I know that if I let go, there will be comfort.
For now, I remain too attached to the things that I Love, and that Love me back. And that ain’t so bad.
Simon Trepel, MD
Simon Trepel, MD FRCPC, is a practicing Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, in Winnipeg, Canada. He is an Assistant Professor, at the University Of Manitoba, in the Faculty of Medicine, and the Co-founder of the GDAAY Clinic. He is, more importantly, the proud Father of 2 beautiful Daughters. He writes in his spare time about things he knows something about, and occasionally about things he doesn’t; like Yoga, and Italian flavored coffees. He is working on his addiction to vanity, and fear of death.
Check out his Blog, called Simon Says Psych Stuff, at