May 11

“Closure” Not Realistic: Uncertainty and Healing Are

Sociologist Nancy Berns, author of Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us (2011), finds that the definition of this widely used term varies depending on who’s using it—and, in short, that closure is a made-up concept.

From her website:

Closure has been described—in contradictory ways—as justice, peace, healing, acceptance, forgetting, remembering, forgiveness, moving on, answered questions, or revenge….

But closure is not some naturally occurring emotion that we can simply find with the right advice. Healing? Yes, healing is possible, but that is different from closure.

Myth Slayers is her term for those who mostly agree with her; the Walking Wounded is for those who don’t. In short, “Myth Slayers want the freedom to grieve” (Psychology Today); the Walking Wounded “are stuck in a holding pattern internalizing the belief that without closure they cannot move on with life” (Psychology Today).

But what’s wrong with having hope for healing? Well, nothing. It’s more about how hope is used by some. The following comes from Chapter One: “…There are many ways to grieve, and there is hope for healing. Along the way, though, there are people trying to shape what you do in the midst of pain for a variety of reasons. Hope is a valuable resource and, unfortunately, used as a means for marketing products and ideas. We need to guard hope.”

So, how do people actually move on and/or deal with grief? The following quote from Berns about death can apply to other losses as well: “We do not ‘get over’ a death. We learn to carry the grief and integrate loss into our lives. In time, the grief becomes lighter, but still remains. At any point, something may knock off the scab on one’s heart. And it hurts” (Psychology Today).

Other quotes by Nancy Berns on closure:

…(T)here is no point of “final closure,” no point at which we can say, “Ah, now I have finally completed my grief.” Or, “Yes, now I have healed.” There is no point at which we will never cry again, although as time goes on the tears are bittersweet and less common.

You do not need to “close’ pain” in order to live life again.

The trick may not be finding all the answers, but learning to live with some questions.