I am posting the Closure post for a new reader who wrote and asked what are the steps to closure. I posted this last May so that is why the reference to the Virginia Tech shooting.
Recently I was asked to speak with a New York radio station reporter about closure and healing. I was told that I would have approximately 6 minutes to speak and to link it to the Virginia Tech shootings. I declined.
It is hard to define closure but it is especially hard to talk about it and say what it takes in six minutes and after a hurt so enormous and so fresh.
Additionally, I usually don’t use the word “ closure ” 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 move on to 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 with the ex. They will insist they need to communicate “for closure.”
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 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. It doesn’t matter what the answers are. It doesn’t matter what the questions are. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.
Your “ closure ” is your responsibility. And 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. 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.