Among the most dreaded actions, at least for me, is letting go of people in my life. My friends, family, and loved ones are my life-blood. Or so it often feels. I truly don't believe I would be making this journey without them. It is so helpful to have a strong support network while I transition my life. Sometimes though, we have to let people go, for one of two reasons: 1.) They are a constant negative influence in our lives, and far from being supportive, we realize they can be destructive or 2.) They've let go of us. This might be overt (like a breakup), or we might realize it as a result of their actions, or in some cases, lack thereof.
I'm honestly not sure which of the above instnaces makes the task more difficult. I'm sure in part it depends on the circumstances. Whichever the reason, this process is, without a doubt, painful. It also, once we conquer it, offers relief, and the opportunity to rid ourselves of the destructiveness that holding on to the person brings.
If the person hasn't intentionally done anything destructive or hurtful, talk to them first. They may not realize what they're doing, or how it's affecting you. Give them a chance or two to adjust. If you don't see them making an effort - and genuinely give them the opportunity to do so, it probably won't be an overnight fix - then it may be time to start pulling away. See how it feels, and how they feel, if you rely on them a little less, or have a little less contact with them. If they reach out or try to adjust their behavior, then perhaps they're getting the message. If not, then it's possibly time to let them go. But everyone deserves at least one chance to correct, so make sure they understand just how badly they're affecting you before you walk away. It's possible the person has some place in your life, it might just not be the place you thought. They might not be the close personal friend you'd hoped, but they may be ok in a group or on a limited basis. If they're intentionally being destructive, that's a whole other story. In that case, they've let you go, whether they intended to or not, and you need to treat them as such.
Letting go of someone who has let us go is more straightforward. You don't have to tread lightly - they haven't. That doesn't mean it's less difficult, it just means that it's more black and white. The one thing that I've learned, and it's been a very slowly-learned lesson, is that the quickest way to let someone go in this situation is to realize they are not the person who you thought they were. The reason it's so tough to let these people go is because we often have all these images, ideas, dreams (in the case of a personal relationship) of who we thought the person was and what we thought the relationship was (friendship, personal, even business). And maybe, at one time, they were and it was. But not anymore. They forfeited the right to be put on that pedestal when they chose to let us go. It doesn't mean they didn't have a legitimate reason, but they are no longer that idealized person - because at that moment they have chosen not to be, whether we like it or not. Once you realize this and let it sink it in, truly believe it, you can more easily let them go. Because the person you're letting go doesn't really exist anymore. This isn't intended as a negative on the person per se. People change. I've walked away from situations and relationships because I changed, or because the situation itself changed, and I realized it wasn't fair to myself or the other person to stay. But I can honestly say, in those situations, the person I was walking out was not the same person who had walked in, for better or worse. And had the other person had every right to let me go just as I let them go.
Letting go isn't easy. But the more you focus on this minute on, moving forward, the less painful it becomes. It doesn't always mean letting go forever, but you have to accept that it might never be the same again. And when you stop making that a goal, when you stop hoping some day the situation will correct itself and you can go back to the "old way", then you truly will be able to start moving forward. Because at that point, you're not doing it for them - you're doing it for you.