Closure...It's Not What You Think It Is

Clo·sure Webster’s dictionary defines closure as : an often comforting or satisfying sense of finality <victims needing closure>; also : something (as a satisfying ending) that provides such a sense. Dictionary.com describes it as a bringing to an end; conclusion.

I call bullshit! This has not been my experience. When you lose someone you love; due to death, divorce, a break up, there’s nothing satisfying about it. And there’s certainly no conclusion. Maybe the hope of getting closure someday keeps us going when we might otherwise give up. I suppose that's a good thing. But I don’t think closure exists…at least not the way most of us look at it.

I’ve been thinking about closure alot these last months. Ever since the man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with walked away and my heart was broken beyond words. The ‘solution’ I am often presented with is closure. Well-meaning friends and family members often say, “You just need closure.” Or, they’ll tell me something negative about him saying, “Maybe this will help you get closure.” Apparently, no matter what the circumstance or how deep the pain, all you need to do is get closure and that matter will be behind you forever. They make it sound so easy. It’s not.

Most days come and go without tears, but not without thoughts of him. I get up, I go to work, I live my life. But then something out of the blue sparks a memory. I hear a song, or a line in a movie and the pain comes flooding back. Before I know it I am consumed by the longing to see him again, to hear his voice, to touch his sweet face. Often those journeys into darkness are completely unexpected. The other day I picked up a book off my shelf thinking I’d sit down and read for a while. Inside the front cover was a folded piece of paper. I opened to it find a print out of an email from him professing he would love and adore me forever. He didn’t. And just reading those words all these months later brought back the pain of him leaving as if it were yesterday.

There are also times when it’s a funny memory. I was at the grocery store recently and suddenly felt the urge to start drumming. You can imagine my confusion since I am not, nor have I ever been, a drummer. It took a minute, but then I realized the song playing ovehead was also on the video game Rock Band. We used to play that game until the wee hours of the morning. We had our own ‘band’ and we were on ‘tour’. He was the guitarist, of course, and I was the drummer. I wasn’t very good at it, but we had alot fun! It was our thing…something we did together nearly every time I visited. I laughed out loud in the aisle when it hit me.

And then there are the times when I wonder if the Universe is messing with me. Has that ever happened to you? I was driving through our old home town the other day. This is the town where we met…were we went to high school together. I have to drive through on my way to my parent’s house. He was already on my mind as he often is when I drive past our old high school. As I was sitting at the four-way stop in the middle of town, I looked up and realized the car in front of me had Virginia license plates. That is where he lives and where I was going to move. Virginia is where we were going to build a life together. I just looked up to the sky and sighed. Really? There are 49 other states; why Virginia plates? What does that mean? Or is it just a random coincidence? I still don't know what it means, but don’t believe in coincidences.

To be honest I was starting to think something was wrong with me that I couldn’t get to that ever-illusive state of closure. I felt like people wanted me to get over it already and move on. Maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough. Then my mom loaned me Jerry Sittser’s book, “A Grace Disguised.” It’s the story of a man who lost his mother, his wife, and his daughter in one fateful car crash. He talks about loss in such an honest, real way. And reading his story reminded me that while my life goes on, and so does yours, it will never be the same. You can’t go back. Losing someone you love leaves a hole in your heart that nothing else can fill. That’s not to say you won’t be happy again. But you’ll never stop missing them; they will always be a part of you.

I have to admit I still get angry sometimes when people tell me I need closure. As if that’s the magic pill that will make my heart stop hurting; the memories stop flooding back at the slightest provocation; the longing to see him again fade away. I just don’t think closure is the right word. I think the word we’re looking for is acceptance. You can accept the fact your loved one is gone. But that doesn’t mean you forget them. And I don’t think you should. The memories will always be there; some sad, some happy, some just downright weird. But I think acceptance brings peace…a little at a time.

So here’s my advice on loss. You can take it or leave it. It’s your choice. Let yourself feel the pain. Remember that person as often as you want and cry or smile or both. Don’t fight those feelings because you think you shouldn’t have them. This is not about wallowing or feeling sorry for yourself; though you may feel that way at times. This is about being real. The experiences of your life are as much a part of you as your fingers and toes. The pain will come and go. There is no closure; no magic moment; no satisfy ending; no conclusion. The person you love will always be with you; in your thoughts, your mind, your heart. Life is a story that goes on and on. And they will always be a part of it.

“Even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.” ~Frederick Buechner

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