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Letting Go with Grace

At the end of last year I wrote an essay about going through my breakup with Jason. I submitted the essay for publication to a beautiful magazine that is no longer being printed. After much thought I decided to publish it here on the journal as it was and still is a very healing piece of writing.

It’s been nearly nine months since Jason and I parted and I am grateful so often for the way we showed up to let go. This experience was like no other break up I had been through. Choosing to end a relationship with integrity and love was incredibly healing.

What I am clear about, especially being on the other side of the breakup is that I healed much faster leaning into the discomfort of it all with Jason and I am truly grateful for that. Before I get into the essay I want to thank you all for being here and following along. This journal has saved me too many times to count and I feel blessed to have a place to come and share these tender parts of myself. This is such a huge part of my healing and sharing. All my heart.

Letting Go with Grace by Ashley Neese

Letting Go With Grace

Standing in our kitchen watching Jason cook the chicken the way he always did with confidence and ease made my heart sink into the floor. After many months of working on our relationship with each other and in therapy it all came down to this meal, the last dinner we would share in the home we spent nearly a year renovating. I was trying as best I could to soak in as much of each moment as possible. I needed to remember exactly how he prepared the chicken so that I could make it for myself when I was out in the world on my own.

Jason removed the chicken from the pan while I got the shredded collard greens ready. We like to cook them quickly in the chicken grease, it’s crazy delicious. He made our plates and we headed into the empty dining room to eat. After a few bites of dinner I burst into tears. I had been crying on and off all day but this time it felt like a flood coming out of my entire body. I couldn’t hold back.

Jason sat there looking at me with an expression of concern, similar to the one he had every time I cried. This time, instead of shutting me out I could feel him opening and holding space for my intense feelings. I knew he felt as sad as I did about the dissolve of the relationship we wanted with each other yet couldn’t get quite right. But as usual I was the one showing my feelings on the outside. For the first time in our relationship that felt okay. I didn’t need him to cry with me. I didn’t need him to go into the darkness in the same way that I did. In that moment, I was able to accept him fully, through the pain, through the snot running down my face, and just be present with all of the hurt.

Once I came up for air Jason told me that he was really sad about everything too. We talked at length about the dreams we shared during the first year of our relationship and how our expectations got in the way of us being able to see clearly. Something had been off with us for a long while but neither one of us was willing to be honest about it until a couple of months before this last dinner.

It is powerful to be completely vulnerable with your partner. I remember exactly where I was sitting when I told Jason I was unhappy and didn’t want to continue our relationship in the same way. It was late afternoon, the air smelled of white sage and palo santo, the light was just the perfect shade of twilight. I knew it was time to say the words I had been feeling for months.

I am really unhappy.

I don’t know what to do.

I cannot go on like this.

I love you.

As they flowed out of my mouth my energy began to shift. I felt a strong pain in my heart and at the same time a lightness in my stomach. Intuitive feelings always come through in my stomach, it’s been that way since I was little. My intuition had been nudging me for a while to speak this truth to Jason, to get honest about what was happening. Once I did, the inner pushing feeling released and I knew in a very big way that I made the right call.

I’ve never been the one to initiate ending a relationship. My pattern has been to stay in relationships long past when I know it’s time to leave. I ignore my inner voice and wait for the relationship to continue to dissolve knowing that the other person will eventually make the call. This time, I felt in my heart that I had to be the one to begin the conversation. I had to reach up through the fear of being alone, beyond the programming of what it means to be a single woman in her 30s, and share my truth in that moment. The message was very clear: If I am going to step deeper into my role as a leader and teacher I have to put everything on the line and take the risks I am most afraid to take.

In that moment I stretched into a new woman I am still learning to become.

Everything changed after those words were spoken.


Nobody knows how to end a relationship. Even if you read all of the self-help books and talk to your friends, family, teachers, and therapists, you still have to navigate the conversations and the separation on your own. It’s your work to do, it’s your path to carve out.

The reality is, we’re all just making up how we relate to each other as we go along. While it can seem overwhelming to breakup with someone you love, the truth is, you only have two paths to take. You can choose to let go with an open heart or you can shut yourself off from what is happening. To end a relationship with an open heart is to let go with grace. This is the path I chose because I had enough experience with unconscious breakups over the years and this time I had to do things differently for myself and for Jason. I owed us both that much.

I say I had to do things differently because in the end it didn’t feel like much of a choice. I knew I wanted to step as far out of my comfort zone as possible and that I wanted to grow through this experience and be proud of myself for the ways that I showed up and the love that I gave each day no matter how sad I felt.

Our culture places a great deal of emphasis on marriage. We celebrate coming together, participate in rituals to unite our spirits in community, and many of us spend countless hours planning for the big wedding day. When my meditation teacher David suggested that Jason and I show up for each other and create a loving space to let go of our relationship it sounded like such a radical idea. After listening to him speak about the healing that happens when two people release each other with consciousness and love I knew this was an incredible opportunity to grow. Letting go with grace taught me volumes about the resilience of the human spirit and our capacity to love courageously through difficult times.

In the first few days of our conversations Jason and I decided that we were going to fully show up and love each other through this difficult time. Love was never an issue with us. We loved each other from the start, but like many couples we got to a place where we recognized that love wasn’t enough to keep us together. We needed more from each other and were not in a place where we could make any more compromises.

Jason and I have been dear friends from the start and we talked about remaining close. First we needed to let go of the expectations that we created around building a life together and starting a family. It was clear this wasn’t in the cards for us at this time and we had to free that vision to make room for staying friends. When you spend years with someone you love, share many beautiful times and tremendous growth it’s impossible to cut yourself off from them. Letting go with grace meant making room for all of the grief that arises during separating from your best friend. Letting go with grace means holding space for all of the feelings that are experienced and for any number of possibilities to come through in the future.

After our delicious dinner filled with tears and some deep belly laughs for good measure, we climbed into bed to watch a couple of episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. This is one of Jason’s favorite shows and it took me nearly three years to agree to start watching it. Afterward, we tried to sleep, but neither one of us slept well that night. It’s hard to go into a deep sleep when you know it’s the last night you’re spending with your partner. I was still the entire night, my body exhausted but my mind unable to rest.

The next morning Jason made his usual buckwheat porridge breakfast with loads of Chinese herbs while I prepared eggs and greens. We ate quietly then I helped Jason gather a few more items to take with him. He was leaving that morning and I would have our house to myself until I moved out a few days later. While he started loading up the car so many intense feelings surfaced. I was sweeping the floor in the room that was supposed to be our office and I fell to my knees. My legs went numb. I sat on the floor sobbing like I had the night before during dinner. My mind was blank and all I could do was let the feelings flow through me and allow myself to be messy. After a few minutes Jason found me in the room and sat down in front of me. He didn’t try to fix me. He didn’t tell me that I needed to stop having my feelings. He just sat there and let me move through the experience.

Often times in relationships many words go unspoken. You stuff feelings down at some point. You keep quiet about difficult emotions at other times. What I have learned from ending my relationship with grace is that in order to thrive in any of our relationships we must be willing to be brave no matter what. We must be willing to open our hearts even when we’re terrified because to stay closed is to miss out on true intimacy with another person.

During my relationship with Jason there were many instances where I held my true feelings back. Growing up it wasn’t acceptable to express my feelings and it’s taken me a long time to learn how to open up in partnerships. The beauty of coming to the end of a relationship cycle is that it’s easier to be honest. The big fear of the relationship ending isn’t there any more, which gives both people a chance to come clean and tell the truth.

The paradox is that real intimacy is born from letting go with grace. By showing up and allowing yourself to feel all of the feelings and be the most honest you have ever been with your partner, you create the connection we all crave from relationships. Learning how to let myself crack open and be completely present during our transition made my love for him stronger. It was clear through this process that even though it was deeply sad, we were able to still love each other and count on each other for compassion and support.

In some ways I love Jason even more now than I did when we were together because I fully let him into my world. I also had very clear boundaries during our breakup and was able to hold space for his feelings without making them about me or trying to change them. Letting go with grace has shown me that I have the capacity to fully give myself to another person, to break my heart open right before their eyes and to not have it all together.

One of my favorite stories growing up was The Velveteen Rabbit. My grandmother read it to me too many times to count and it always touched my heart. Over the past weeks I have been coming back to this childhood classic over and over, deeply connecting to the wisdom it shares: True love has nothing to do with being shiny and perfect and everything to do with becoming real. The process of becoming real is uncomfortable and scary at times. Each time we reach up and become a truer version of ourselves, we open our hearts to the grace alive in the present moment. Becoming real is one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of life.

Ours is a story of deep healing. By making the commitment to let go of our relationship with grace we honored our love, respected our time together, and cleared our emotions to be able to stay friends in the future. I have learned through this breakup that it is possible to release with loads of generosity, healing, and love. I don’t know what the future holds for Jason and I but I have no doubt that we are forever transformed by this profound experience. Endings are sad and there is always grief to be felt. Instead of running from the pain, numbing the sadness, or trying to rush through it, we took it slowly and gave ourselves permission to simply be in the experience of it all.

When it was time for Jason to leave our home we embraced in a very long hug. At this point we were both crying. There was no place to hide and we didn’t want to close ourselves off. We just stood there holding each other, tears flowing, sharing how much we loved each other, that we were grateful for the time we had, the ways we grew and the lessons that we learned. We took long breaths and held each other up. Time seemed to stand still as we tuned into each other’s feelings and allowed ourselves to become real.


Photos by Anais + Dax




  • Marlon

    Thank you so much Ashley for sharing with us. This is absolutely beautiful and so brave, and holds a lot of wisdom for both continuing in and departing from a relationship. The work you’ve done is so inspiring!! Infinite love <3

    • ashley

      Hi Marlon, it is always so lovely to hear from you. Thank you for taking the time to write and connect, it means the world to me. Wishing you a beautiful week. xoa

  • Thank you for sharing this Ashley it si a beautiful piece of writing and a really moving story.
    I love the Velveteen Rabbit too and I love the “moral” that you pulled out from it too, I came across this concept from Richard Idemon and it’s there in so many places – that “I love you enough to let you go, i love you enough to set you free” is the deepest sort of love
    Enjoy this eclipse/full moon and thank you again for sharing

    • ashley

      Hello dear! It is great to connect with you, thank you for writing. Isn’t it such a sweet story? So many gems in there. I love what you wrote about letting go, it’s so true. Thinking of you and wishing you a beautiful start to Fall. xoa

  • Thank you for sharing this, Ashley. Your words are beautiful as always and are deeply touching. I can relate so much to the anguish of letting go and the beauty of showing up for yourself in the deepest way possible.

    • ashley

      Hey Michelle, what a treat to hear from you! Thank you so much for your thoughtful words, I am receiving them fully! Thinking of you and sending so much love your way. xoa

  • Luisa Nunes

    I read with admiration what you described. Im much older than you and was never able to be that way. thank you for sharing. Hope someday, soon, I can be that way.

    • ashley

      Hello Luisa, thank you for reaching out and sharing your experiences. I am touched by what you wrote and am thinking of you this evening. xoa

  • Kamaile

    Thank you for sharing your open heart & being vulnerable. <3

    • ashley

      You’re so welcome Kamaile, thank you for being here! xoa

  • […] Universe happens as part of a bigger picture, a plan that we don’t have control or knowledge of. The pain that you are experiencing today is leading you towards something great, you just have to stick with it and trust that the good times are […]

  • Alisa

    I’ve been trying to feel the words to express my upcoming journey as I lay out the guidelines of how to manage and journey through it. Whatever I do, I’ve told myself, will be done with Grace, Kindness and Compassion. I e included caps with these three words as they are symbolic in my journey. While I am just lacing up my imaginary knapp sack and am ready to take the journey down this road, reading your words are are though I am looking into my future. Your words are my words and I know, with the greatest of certainty and with great Grace, we will be gently sail off into our own sunsets. Thank you for sharing your heart and easing mine.

  • Michelle

    Thank you for sharing this, its a really important and great essay

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