Day 3: The Myth of Closure

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Ok, I admit it. I had to google Martin Amis. Whatever.

Closure is a pop psychology phrase we hear a lot about in TV, movies and modern literature. Well, I’m here to call BS. I agree with Martin Amis (British novelist in case you’re wondering, has a whole tumblr dedicated to him apparently);closure does not exist. I have to wonder if actual psychologists, not just the ones on TV, even use this word. I think if I was seeing one who did I’d demand my money back. Well, probably not because I’d be seeing them for issues of being non-confrontational so I’d probably just call when the office was closed to cancel my next appointment and never return. Same thing.

But, back to the topic at hand. I’ve been thinking a lot about closure lately. In the past year I lost two people who were important and significant in my life but with whom, for reasons mostly beyond my control, I did not have a close relationship. I’ve spent a lot of time replaying the events over which I did have control, wishing I could change some things, glad others played out as they did. And the events I couldn’t control I had to let go.

I suppose that’s what is meant by closure but the term is so misleading. It’s not as if I’ve closed the door to my grief, my regrets, my happy memories, my what ifs. We don’t simply move on just because we got to say our proper goodbyes or the things we hadn’t been brave enough to say before. At least I haven’t.

I still wonder what would have been if I’d called one more often, stopped by to see the other when I was busy but didn’t realize it was the last chance I’d have. I know I’m fortunate to have had the time I did. I really got the textbook case of perfect closure with these two; we said some important things, had time together near the end, even had a few laughs… But I’m still left with regret and longing for the chance to say and do some things differently. That’s why I know closure doesn’t really exist; at least not in the way it so often depicted in popular culture. Nothing is neat and tidy when it comes to human relationships. Nothing.

This realization has, as so often happens, reached beyond the grieving process and into my existing relationships. When I was first faced with inevitable regrets I tried to overcompensate with those I still have in my life. I wanted to be more forthcoming with my feelings so people would know exactly where they stood with me and I wouldn’t have to just hope they knew if something tragic were to happen.

But here’s the thing, people talk back and they don’t usually follow the script that played in your head when you were deciding the perfect things to say. And I don’t know about you but I usually think of my best responses after the conversation ends.

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I don’t just mean snarky, biting comebacks . For some reason those usually come too easily. No, I mean the well reasoned arguments explaining why I see things differently than the other person. The one who’s hurt me. Or who feels hurt by me. Or whom I disagree. I just know that this one last bit of logic I’ve applied will make them see things my way! But that never happens. Because even if I get another chance (which, let’s face it, is rare) they insist on going off script again!

So then you leave that conversation, the one that was supposed to bring you closure, with even more things you wish you’d said. Still no closure because as long as there are other people things won’t ever be that clean. They get to respond. Or reject your argument. Or poke holes in your logic. Or just be wrong.

 I’m not exactly zen about this lack of closure but I am learning to accept it and trying to reap the emotional benefits that come with that acceptance. I’m no longer pining for the perfect resolution to things and am instead coming to the realization that I don’t need to explain all of my choices, express every hurt emotion or expect resolution to every conflict. I can decide to walk away without “closure”. I can ask myself what I hope to gain. Or how my explanations, expressions, attempts to resolve things will truly impact the situation. Will I still be hurt? Will the relationship change in a way I can accept (for better or worse)? Will the conflict really be resolved?

Every situation, relationship and interaction will carry it’s own variables so the answers here aren’t cut and dry. But no matter what I know that speaking up or keeping silent, taking action or choosing not to, there will be no closure. We can only move on with new choices, pain, healing, resolutions and conflicts. They don’t go away just because we talked about them.

Mr. Amis was right; nobody gets over anything. We just learn to move on.

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6 responses to “Day 3: The Myth of Closure

  1. I genuinely loved this blog post. In the past, I have struggled with other’s expectations of my actions and reactions. They confuse my silence for inaction, judge my statements without asking for clarification, and make assumptions based on the words of others. You wrote, “But no matter what I know that speaking up or keeping silent, taking action or choosing not to, there will be no closure. We can only move on with new choices, pain, healing, resolutions and conflicts. They don’t go away just because we talked about them,” it really hit home with me. You eloquently captured what my heart was feeling. Then you wrote, ” I’m no longer pining for the perfect resolution to things and am instead coming to the realization that I don’t need to explain all of my choices,” and your words resounded with me. We all have different meanings, reasons, and needs for getting as close to closure as humanly possible. However, we are the sum of our experiences and conveying our logic and understanding to others can sometimes be as futile as expecting answers from the sea.

      • Thanks, Michelle! I always hope someone else will find my random musings helpful but it’s nice to actually hear it! 🙂

    • I’m always so happy when people with respond with comments that interpret what I’m saying the way I intended them. Accepting that the understanding of others is sometimes futile is a big realization for me and has helped me let go of some things I’ve held onto for too long.

      Thanks for reading and especially for commenting! 🙂

  2. I don’t think we ever “get over” a deep loss, and I don’t believe there is ever “closure.” Closure is such a definite end, much like a door slamming. That doesn’t exist with deep grief. In my opinion, we gradually learn to weave the loss into the fabric of our lives. It forever changes us and our lives.

    • I completely agree. In the past I’ve really identified with the analogy of learning to dance with a limp. The dance goes on but it is definitely changed.

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