Sometimes people tell me how much they long for and need “closure.” In my experience, closure is a construct that doesn’t really exist. Wouldn’t it be lovely to feel that a negative situation or experience has perfectly resolved, and can be tied up with a bow and filed in the basement? Wouldn’t it be lovely to feel completely “free” of any bad memories or difficult emotions? Of course it would which is why people want closure.
Unfortunately, most people want the person who disappointed them in the first place to provide this closure, so wanting closure keeps you at the mercy of someone, and prevents you from going forward in your life to a place where you really can experience healing. I think, too, that we believe if we can understand “what happened”, we can possibly prevent future bad experiences. We all live in a world that is fraught with risk, hurt, heartache, and danger. Grief is very much a part of the human experience. More than closure – which as I said doesn’t really exist – we need the strength and the courage to go forward in our lives, to go forward when our hearts have been broken, and we aren’t sure what the future holds for us.
Wanting closure is code for waiting for someone else to “fix it” for us so we feel better. For example, if a 15-year-old girl wants closure from her 15-year-old boyfriend who broke up with her, what would you advise her to do? Hmmm, being at the mercy of a 15-year-old boy to help you process through what happened when it is unlikely he even knows what happened is not a good place to be. Instead, it would be more helpful for her to understand not necessarily “what happened”, but what the terms are for navigating the rest of her life. I would tell her this: Relationships are difficult. People are far from perfect. (15-year-old boys can be particularly problematic.) But because we are human, it is important to have relationships. So, we are going to have to tolerate a certain amount of pain in order to proceed. It takes a lot of courage to be human, frankly. And there’s no real simple way to do it. So, lick your wounds, cry for a while, eat a pint of ice cream, go to bed, and then wake up the next morning and do your best to take care of what’s on your list of stuff to take care of. Put one foot in front of the other. Keep going. Your life matters even when you feel it doesn’t. The plain fact of the matter is that when you are dating (or whatever it’s called nowadays), you are either going to get married (or whatever people do nowadays to commit to each other) or break up. And most of the time you are going to break up. Doesn’t exactly sound like a trip to Disneyworld, but c’est la vie.
Or at least it’s part of life, and we all have to find our way through. We don’t need closure to do that. We need guts.