WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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closing up closure

You’ve probably heard “normal” summed up as “a setting on the washing machine.”  We need a similar phrase for closure. People seek and suggest “closure” when grief goes on past some particular time frame or when grief rises in response to an event not expected to call on it.  Maybe “only zippers need closure” could work. 

Whether grief is related to a relationship’s end, a death or some old way of being, sometimes – not always – it offers clearer, new ways of being.  Still, old ways are often familiar and comfortable, so even when we welcome the new, we may grieve the old.  Regardless of whether our losses are welcomed and freeing or unwanted and confining, an obligation to closure doesn’t seem helpful.

When we have great joy or learning or complexity in our relationship with someone or something, we pull parts of them into us.  Closing out our losses means losing the perspective and connection we’ve gained from these relationships and experiences.  Closure requires a small death of some part of us as we ignore and starve these connections.

I think what people want when they suggest or seek closure is a smoothing of grief’s rough, raw edges.  This is different than tidily compartmentalizing complex feelings about loss and then closing a door on them.  It’s also infinitely more doable. 

Smoothing grief’s raggedness means holding what was, what is, and what can be.  When we do this, life expands into our own unique story versus contracting into what makes others comfortable or into some silly notion we won’t grow if we hold important pieces of the past.  So focus on closing your zippers (this does seem best), but let the connections and complexity of what be companions as you walk into the new.

Whitney Cain