Grief and the Myth of Closure

When faced with grief we often ask, “When will I begin to feel better? When will I return to normal?  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 and love.

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 one.

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, laugh 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.


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4 thoughts on “Grief and the Myth of Closure

  1. Anthony Mastrandrea

    Today a grief support group declined my becoming a member of the group because my wife died more than 5 years ago and they did knowing I was still grieving and in pain. So it appears society says closure must come within certain time frameworks. Isn’t this mentality crazy and stupid. Anthony in LA

  2. Ashley Bush

    Hello Anthony in LA, thanks for your comment. Yes, they just don’t understand do they? Grief waits for you, however, so it’s never too late to grieve. Wishing you peace, Ashley

  3. Suzanne

    I like and believe what was written in the article that we continue to have opportunities for deeper levels of healing even long after our loved one dies. Seventeen years after my ex husband committed suicide, life brought me face to face with his loss by moving onto his long forgotten and abandoned property. I have been living on his land now for three years and have been cleaning the energy and the land. In this process of cleaning, I have undergine a major transformation in my own life. I did not realize that healing could be so deep. It defined me. As someone said to me, “the source of my pain became the source of my healing.”
    I looked to this article because I feel I am here now for closure. The pain and loss as well as his land is being transformed to love.

  4. Ashley Bush

    Hello Suzanne,
    Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It is a wonderful thing to reach deeper and deeper levels of healing. May it continue! Wishing you peace, Ashley

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