Closure Redux

For most of you who have read the book, you know that I talk about closure and “end of the grief process” in different ways. Because they are not the same. To describe the end of the grief process, I use the words “acceptance” or “integration” or “reorganization” because that is truly what happens at the end. You integrate the loss and all the changes in you from the loss, from the experience of moving through it and moving on.

You integrate the effects of this experience, the loss and the grief that follows and the you that emerges from walking through the grief, into your life and you go on, a different, changed person. If you’ve walked through it and done the work you are better, stronger and freer. If you have not you may be afraid and more limited in your ability to love and to live.

People will say “I need closure.” and that is really a somewhat meaningless refrain. They will bandy about this “I need closure” as a reason to get in touch/stay in touch. They will insist they need to say goodbye or communicate or say things that were left unsaid “for closure.” Nonsense.

First of all, you cannot get “closure” from somewhere else. You cannot go through a divorce and ask your ex to talk to you about the relationship or remaining issues under the guise of needing “closure.” You don’t need the answers to move on. You don’t need to “say goodbye,” it’s been goodbye for a while now. You know it, everyone knows it.

You don’t need to know what your ex thinks about you or anything else for that matter in order to move on, do your grief work, integrate the loss into your life and turn the page.

Your “closure” is your responsibility. It is not someone else’s obligation to see you or talk to you so you can get closure. It’s over. Accept it and move on. That is how you get closure. Through accepting it and not dragging it all back up again WITH the person you’ve lost or are losing. That doesn’t get you closure. That gets you nowhere. And if you’re obsessed with this closure business, it means you are neglecting other things in your life. You are refusing to move on and move on is what you must do.

In the workbook there is an exercise where you imagine you do get to ask your ex questions and I created it after years of hearing these supposed “closure” conversations. Almost no one feels better after them, especially if they come right after a breakup when the person is still grieving.

You get closure by doing your work, not re-engaging and dredging up more stuff, by keeping yourself safe and being good to yourself as you un-attach from that which you have been attached.

When I was a practicing grief therapist, I counseled many a spouse of someone who had committed suicide. They sometimes left a note, sometimes they did not. Sometimes the note made things worse. The spouse was plagued with doubt, fear, uncertainty, self-blame, anger, shame and hurt. There are questions upon questions upon questions. What do the family members do for closure? They cannot go to their mate and say “Why did you do this?” and get an answer. That does not mean there is no closure. They can ask the questions…in fact I encouraged them to journal and talk and ask and ask and ask…until they get tired of asking…until they have walked through the pain and the shame and the self-blame. They get tired of questioning…they eventually accept there is no answer and nothing would make sense even if they had one.

So it is when the person is still alive but gone from your life. There may be many questions. You need to just deal with the fact that you won’t get answers, that the answers will not satisfy and that your responsibility is to go on and find solace and comfort and healing from INSIDE YOU and that someone else’s explanation will not help you to closure.

This is not to compare the pain of a breakup with the pain of a loved one’s suicide, but in so many ways I can agree that the family of suicides deserve some kind of answer. But to say that and fuel that fire does not help. I might think that and believe that, but that didn’t happen and the family needs to find closure anyway.

And this breakup without your idea of closure teaches you to put closure on it YOURSELF. Which is what everyone needs. Everyone needs to understand that no matter the loss, closure is your responsibility. And if you learn this lesson now, it will save so much pain in your life no matter what the loss.

The only TRUE closure comes from inside you.

When you tell someone else that you need them to give YOU something so you can have closure, you have given them power over your life and your healing that they do not deserve. The person who hurt you cannot give you closure…nor should you want them to or expect them to or give them that kind of power. You need to move on from where you are FOR YOU no matter what they say or do.

Closure is part emotional healing work and part decision. At some point you have to decide to turn the page to DECIDE that it’s time and it’s enough and it’s over and thank you and goodbye. At some point you have to CHOOSE the time to move on. And that is the time of closure…it comes after the hurt and the anger and the confusion…but it comes. And it comes from you and you alone. It is a side effect of walking through the pain but also of saying “This is it. I’ve had enough of this pain and anger and not living….it’s time to move on.” and then you MOVE ON.

That is closure. It is the integration of having experienced a loss, having worked through the emotions of that loss, of having decided that it’s time to move on, of recognizing the new self that is moving on, of committing to becoming the best new self you can be, and then going forward. That is closure. It happens for you and inside you. And only you. You get it from within.

And even if you have all the questions in the world, closure is possible down the road. You have to decide the answers don’t matter. It’s NOT going to make sense. You hurt, you are angry, you are confused, you are every emotion in the book, but you can survive even without knowing the answers to everything. At some point you have to accept, it is what it is and you may never understand exactly what that is. Then you Move on.

That is closure.

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5 Responses to Closure Redux

  1. topf says:

    I remember I read this post (or a past version of it) around like 7 or 8 years ago. It helped me so much. This feeling of needing a final goodbye was so compelling and urgent! I asked him a couple of times to see him and would cancel last minute every time because I realized every time that the urgency had other reasons.

    Eventually, I did heal. I just needed to let time pass, and I needed to give myself the chance to accept my new reality. Wanting closure in the shape of a talk with the ex is wanting to hear magical words that help you accept the new reality (in which the ex is a bananahead, in which the ex is not in your life anymore, in which the ex turned into someone you don’t even know). But accepting reality is not done with words. It’s done with time and getting used to that reality. In our day and age of instant gratification, we struggle so much with things that require time and patience.

    Like you say in your post, Susan, once you have that skill of knowing you can give yourself closure, it really helps the next time. I am here again and I knew the whole time what I had to do. I am getting there too. I can feel that I am very close to being done with this. I still have days in which I kinda panic. Then things are ok again. The ok days are more than the panic days.

  2. jae says:

    thanks for this,
    So I did the exercise of writing out all the questions I THINK i need to ask him in order to find closure. Then I answered them all with my best guess. Truth is, I already knew most of the answers if there was an answer at all. I don’t need his answers for closure at all. Even though I have been NC for 6 weeks now, I now fully understand how contacting him for these answers would be damaging to the progress I have made. He would only offer more hurt. he cannot be honest with himself, let alone with me. i think I made a little progress with this exercise. Im not exactly sure what closure looks like but I’m hoping it gets here soon 🙂

  3. jae says:

    where do I find the links to the you tube videos?

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