The Myth of Closure
by Ashley Davis Prend, ACSW
Hospice of North Idaho
“When will I begin to feel better? When will I return
to normal? When will I achieve some closure?” grievers
often ask. Closure, our culture tells us, will bring about a
a sense of completion. Some grievers hope that the desired
magical closure will occur after the funeral or memorial service.
are confident it will come once they have cleared out their
loved one’s room. Or maybe after a special personal ritual.
perhaps after the first anniversary comes and goes—“surely
then, we will have closure,” we think.
The reason we long for closure, of
course, is because we would like to neatly seal away all of
this pain. We would
close all of the sad, confused, desperate, angry feelings
out of our
life. We would like to put all of this behind us. Closure.
What an odd concept really, as if we could truly close
the door on
pain—turn the lock and throw away the key. The
truth is far more complex, of course. Closure is for
is for real estate transactions. Closure is not for feelings
or for people we love.
Closure simply does not exist emotionally,
not in a pure sense. We cannot close the door on the
past as if it
because, after losing someone dear to us, we never forget
that person or the love we shared. And in some ways,
we never entirely
get over the loss. We learn to live with the loss, to
integrate it into our new identity.
Imagine if we really
could end this chapter in our life, completely. It would
mean losing our memories, our connections
we love. If we really found closure, it would ironically
more because the attachment would be severed. And this
attachment is vital to us—the memories are treasures
to be held close, not closed out.
Perhaps it is better
to think in terms of healing. Yes, we can process our
pain and move to deeper and deeper
levels of healing.
Yes, we can find ways to move on and channel our pain
into productive activities. Yes, we can even learn to
and laugh again
and love again.
But let’s not ever think that we’ll
close the door completely on what this loss means, for
if we did
that, we would
unwittingly close the door on all the love that we shared.
And that would truly be a loss too terrible to bear.