Grief and the Myth of Closure
by Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW
When faced with grief we often ask, “When will I begin to feel better? When
will I return to normal? When will I be able to breathe again? When will I
achieve some closure?” The idea of closure in our culture is one of tidy
endings, a sense of completion. The reason we long for closure, of course,
is because we would like to be rid of this pain. We would like to shut out
the sad, confused, desperate, angry feelings from our lives, putting all of
this pain behind us so that we can feel joy again.
For some of us, we expect “closure” to happen after the funeral or memorial
service or after a loved one’s room has been cleared out. For others, we
look for closure after a personal ritual, or after the first anniversary
comes and goes. “Surely then, we will have closure,” we think. We pray.
But what an odd concept really, closure….as if we could turn the lock and
throw away the key, as if we could truly close the door on our emotions and
our love for someone lost. The truth, of course, is far more complex. The
‘closure’ that we all strive for loses its relevancy in the realms of loss
Closure may work well in the world of practical matters – with business
deals and real estate transactions. But closure does not apply to the human
heart, not in a pure sense. It isn’t possible to permanently close the door
on the past as if it didn’t exist. And why would we want to anyway . . .
really? If we so thoroughly detached from our loss, we would not only close
the door on the pain but we would also sever the connection to our loved
In losing someone dear to us, it’s important to remember that the
relationship itself is not over. Death cannot take away the love that weaves
its way through every fiber of our being. Love will always triumph over
death in this regard. We want to hold our cherished memories close to our
heart, recognizing that our love is an essential part of us. In fact, we
want to open the door, not close it, onto the reality of living with loss.
Perhaps it is better to drop the idea of closure and think instead in terms
of healing and growth. We can process our pain and move to deeper and deeper
levels of healing; we can find ways to move on while holding our
relationship with our loved one forever in our hearts; we can channel our
pain into meaningful activities to honor our loved ones; we can even learn
to smile again, breathe again and love again.
Our loss becomes love transformed, transformed from that which relies on
physical presence to something more pure. So let us not strive for closure.
When we do that, we unwittingly close the door on all the love that we
shared. And, truly, that would be a loss too terrible to bear.
From Mike. AMEN. However let us not
forget that "any emotion you can breathe through properly and long enough
will lose its grip on you."
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