Is there closure?

The teary-eyed woman on the news with the microphone thrust in front of her said, “I just want to get closure on my daughter’s murder.” The reporter nodded solemnly, understanding. Being farther down life’s road than she is, I want to leave a signpost–There is no such thing as closure.

As a culture, Americans are big on closure.
Something awful happens to us, and we look for a ritual that allows us to tie it up neatly, claim we are “just fine,” and go back to work.

Last year, when Gary’s wife died, he asked me when he should stop wearing his wedding ring.
“When you are ready to take it off,” I replied.
Gary looked at me warily. “I thought you were a life coach. Well, you should know the rules.”

Life doesn’t come with instructions for grief. We have to write our own. And there is no closure, no sign that we get that mourning is over and we can go back to our regular lives.
When we lose someone we love, when a medical problem blows up our routine, lives do not get glued back together.sorrow

Instead, there’s a different life. And we become a different person by coping with it.
Over time, we stitch together broken hearts, shattered expectations, overturned plans, and figure out how to proceed. And the change forges for us a new heart and a new spirit that we use to cope with our new life.

As almost anyone who has lost a loved one or gone through a life-changing disease, friends pull away after awhile. In the beginning, we are showered with questions, with suggestions, with directions. And when we don’t respond as expected, our circle of friends backs away, leaving us alone.

Disaster brings a new character. We slowly quit crying so hard and so long. We fashion a new life. There is no closure. There is just courage to face another day until we get strong enough to recognize our new life. And then we live it, one day at a time, until we make a new role for ourselves.

Theodore Roethke had it right in The Waking, when he said,

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

–Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach. Her website it
Image: Sorrow, courtesy


5 thoughts on “Is there closure?

  1. Pina–Depends on what you mean by closure. If you want to make sure you have clarity, that’s one thing. If you want to make sure you get (or give) forgiveness, great. But in big cases (death, or being unfaithful) you become a different person, and the life around you changes. You can’t go back to the way it was before. Even if you forgive, your life is changed. And my idea was that people want some sort of endpoint they can then “put behind them.” That kind of closure is rare.

  2. I dis agree. I think closure is essential. I hear Quinn’s point though, “there is no such thing as closure, you move on.” But, truthfully, I think if the peson is still alive and you had some dumb argument or misunderstanding, you need to catch that person NOW, because when they die, you will spend ooddles of your free time seeing a therapist or saying,
    “What if?”
    Murder is a different closure. A closure you make for yourself, like suicide.
    Rituals are important. At the same time, the paradox is that you can have closure with the dead and do a ritual and still not feel complete. Grieving is eternal but has its ebb and flow!
    I’m 100 percent Italian. I walk this earth everyday and I run like a wild animal after my prey to get closure.
    Letting go all the time-at the same time- but always believing that if the person is alive- there is hope for closure- FAITH!

  3. Closure. Yes there is closure Quinn but only for relative trivia -such as losing a favourite ring and searching for it tirelessly, telling everybody, missing it, being upset, forgetting about it…closure. Topped off completely with the purchase of a new ring. Closed. WIth regard to the rest of life I entirely agree, we don’t have closure, we have change. When the changes are huge, life altering we have a choice, adapt, move forward or stay in that moment, that event and live life as a ghost. Adaptation has to be one of the most fundamental requirements of living because without it the only future is extinction. ‘Coming to terms’ – it’s desperately hard but ultimately what has to be done; we come to terms with loss, ill health, betrayal, ignorance – ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’. When we can truly say that we’ve come to terms with an event we can genuinely move forward. Easy to say – very hard to put into practice.

  4. I agree–there’s no closure to a murder or other disaster unless you are the victim who is murdered or dies. For them it IS closure–the end of their lives. For the rest they are life-altering experiences. One of the poems I vaguely remember about widowhood described loss as life never getting better, only more ordinary. I think closure is only a valid word when used to describe an uncertain fate: the MIA soldier, or the kidnap victim who may or may not be dead. Closure happens when the body or person is recovered, but that only wraps up the story for the newspapers or the policeman, not the families involved.

  5. “And the change forges for us a new heart and a new spirit that we use to cope with our new life”

    ” There is no closure. There is just courage to face another day until we get strong enough to recognize our new life. And then we live it, one day at a time, until we make a new role for ourselves.”

    Exactly! Your quotes are going straight into my quote book.

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