Is Closure a Myth?

From comments directed to you personally to not so detailed messages from the media, you are familiar with the assumption that closure is essential after a death. As a bereaved person, you are familiar with both overt and covert messages, which lead you to “get on with it,” that is, get your mourning and grief behind you and get on with your dreams. In other words, “get closure”! 

In contrast, try to trust your own experiences with mourning and grief. You will “get on with it” when you are ready, and only you know when the time is right for you.

Grief and Mourning- Media and the social fabric

As the term is commonly used, closure implies that the loss and all results of it are resolved, finished, coiled up, and put away. The media helps society to envision what your journey through grief and loss should seem like. An example is in the use of language. “Now these kids have another loss to mourn, just having grieved the loss of a student last week.” As if the students are over the loss from the past week!

The media has no idea about grief. Even newspaper reports of brutal death fall from the front page in a few days. Days or weeks later, such a story may surface again but on the mid pages. Unfortunately, in the social construction of mourning, your unique, personal experiences as a bereaved person can be dismissed, invalidated, abated, or, at the very least, underestimated.

Instruction from professionals

Not so long ago, even the expert literature prescribed the necessity of relinquishing ties with the deceased if one were to be believed to have successfully fixed his or her loss. However, persons coping with what they may understand they “should” be about and their personal experience tell them they are repeatedly reporting the need for continuing bonds with their deceased loved ones.

You are not wrong, misguided, or “not doing it right”, if, in your own personal, unique journey through grief, you need to maintain a “relationship” with your loved one in some way. The issue is not whether doing so symbolizes an unhealthy or healthy response to loss, but instead finding appropriate ways of creating a new relationship with your loved one. There is a necessity for a different relationship. There is a need to learn how to love in physical disconnection.

Closure does not have to do with the bereaved.

I suggest that the impression of closure has more to do with the trouble of people around you than with you, the person in grief. Being in a relationship with bereaved people taps into personal issues for each of us, making us inadequate and uncomfortable. It is not always easy to alleviate one’s own anxieties to be truly helpful to bereaved persons. This is not an excuse for reacting ineffectually to you, the person in grief; essentially, everyone can learn. It does, however, seem to consider much of the emphasis placed on “closure.”

Embody the influence and inspiration of your loved one in healthy ways.

The time in the relationship with your loved one cannot be slaughtered. What you were given in your relationship cannot be denied. The meanings of your shared relationship cannot be obliterated. You can still embody the loved person’s influence and inspiration in your own life in healthy ways.

A few examples include composing appropriate, for you, rituals at holiday times and other significant events when your loved one is remembered and cherished; continuing work that was significant to your loved one; completing a project your loved one left incomplete. Take your time to examine these matters before you decide what is best for you. Finding another place for your loved one outside physical presence, yet in a relationship with you, takes time. There is no need to rush; in fact, the process cannot be hurried.

Some continuing bonds can be unhealthy.

It is true that to build a new relationship, you, as a bereaved person, cannot remain reliant on or under a destructively dominating influence of your deceased loved one. Being “stuck” in grief or deceived by “unfinished business” with the dead person are not examples of healthy continuing bonds. These situations embody unhealthy bondage to your deceased loved one. When conditions are such as these, professional help can help sort out the complexities that hinder a healthy response to loss and death.

The closure is sometimes fit.

The closure is a word to be used very precisely. Closure can correctly describe parts of your journey with grief. One example might be a financial settlement of an estate. Another example might be relinquishing a joint activity that meant more to the dead person than to you, the survivor. However, we must reevaluate “closure” in the broader contexts of grief. As we increasingly take our cues from bereaved people’s experiences, the evidence is there demonstrating that “closure,” with its meaning as commonly used, is ridiculous, if not impossible. Closure, in this sense, is a complete myth.

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