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Releasing an aspect of self that hinders progress can be a powerful transition on a journey to wellness. Letting go rituals take many forms such as cutting, crushing, burning, floating, sinking or leaving out in the elements, a symbolic expression of emotions or beliefs that get in the way healing. These options may not be possible for youth in closed custody – burning paper is a potential safety hazard, an outdoor excursion increases the risk of youth “going AWOL,” and very physical acts of destruction can escalate difficult behaviours. Here is a gentle letting go activity that is safe and accessible for any group, not just at-risk youth.

Materials and steps

  • Light-weight dissolvable embroidery stabilizer such as OESD stabilizer or another product that I didn’t try but looks promising is Wonder tape. You can order these products online or check out a local quilting or sewing store. Make sure the product dissolves completely in water.
  • A bowl of warm water
  • Something to stir with
  • Water-based markers
  • Optional: candles, nice fabric to place under bowl
  1. Prepare by cutting the stabilizer in pieces small enough for participants to write down a word or small phrase.
  2. Have participants use a water-based marker to write on a piece of stabilizer a word or phrase of what they want to let go of. Some colours dissolve more easily than others so you may want to test beforehand.
  3. Participants take turns going to the bowl of water and dropping in their word or phrase. Consider what would make the participants most comfortable, having you sit by the bowl as witness and support or at a distance for privacy.
  4. The participant stirs the water and watches the paper and their word/s melt away.

I’ve heard exclamations of surprise and pleasure as youth watch their words disappear into the water as if by magic. Others responded to the ritual by saying loud enough for everyone to hear “that’s lame” then return when they think no one is looking to drop words in the water and stir. The ritual can include activities while people wait their turn such as drumming, colouring mandalas, or sitting quietly. Your creative ideas will make the ritual more meaningful for a specific group.