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.
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 QuinnCreative.com
Image: Sorrow, courtesy Nickworthey.com