Updated: Aug 11
The desire for closure after loss is natural and understandable. Unfortunately, there are times when closure may feel difficult, or nearly impossible, to achieve. This blog post offers tools for finding closure when it’s not handed to you on a silver platter.
What is “closure” and when do we need it?
Closure is the process of seeking answers, gaining understanding, and finding the resolution that we need in order to move forward with our lives after loss. Most often, we will seek closure when we lose something in a way that is hard to understand. For example, you may seek closure when a boyfriend breaks up with you unexpectedly and “ghosts” you, leaving you surprised and confused. You may seek closure after experiencing unexpected death, an untimely job loss, or dissolution of a friendship.
What can you do if closure isn’t easily found?
1. Allow yourself to navigate the stages of grief. Denial/shock, sadness, anger, bargaining, and acceptance are all natural and normal stages of grief. This is rarely a beautiful, linear process where you seamlessly move from one stage into the next. At times, the grief process can feel more like a ball in a pinball machine, getting tossed around unceremoniously from one stage to the next. Allowing this process, rather than resisting the fluctuations, will keep you on a healing trajectory. It is important to allow yourself to go through the difficult parts of this process (sadness and anger), but it is also important to free yourself up to the possibility of coming into a place of acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you like or enjoy what has happened; it means accepting your reality as it is, and ultimately developing a belief that you/your future can be okay in spite of the loss.
2. Utilize mindfulness techniques. As you go through the natural and normal ups and downs of grief and loss, incorporate mindfulness techniques by turning towards your emotions with acceptance, getting inquisitive/curious, suspending judgment, and seeking a greater awareness of your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations. Mindful questions include:
“What and where is this feeling?”
“What is bringing this feeling up for me?”
“What do I need now?”
3. Seek validation and support. It will be important to surround yourself with friends, family, and/or therapists that will allow you to process your experiences and feelings as they come up. Be sure to seek out individuals who are skilled in validating, rather than dismissing, you and your emotions.
Validating might sound like:
“It makes sense that you’re feeling this way.”
“This has been a really hard situation for you to go through.”
Invalidating might sound more like:
“Do we have to talk about this again?”
“Why aren’t you over that by now?”
“I don’t see why this is such a big deal to you.”
It is every bit as important to note that YOU should be a voice of validation for yourself. It won’t help your grief process if you are beating yourself up with invalidating, dismissive remarks.
4. Try to make sense of your story (if possible). There may be parts of what happened that will never quite make sense to you, but trying to create a narrative may help you move forward. Ask yourself these questions:
“What do I know?”
“What do I suspect to be true?”
“What lingering questions do I have?"
5. Take the opportunity to learn and grow. While we do not want to frame your loss or experience as a lesson or a blessing, it may help you move forward when you can honestly say that you have learned or grown in some way. Ask yourself the following questions:
"Has the relationship, person, job, or experience taught me anything?"
"In what ways am I now a better person?"
"What have I learned about myself, others, or life in general?"
6. Take care of yourself. Develop healthy habits to nurture your mind, body, and social connections every day. Though the natural inclination might be to retreat and let go of self-care, you probably need those recharging behaviors now more than ever. For more ideas on self-care, refer to our earlier blog post.
What would you add to this list? What has helped you find closure in difficult circumstances? We love hearing from you!
If you or someone you know is struggling to find closure, our Annapolis therapists are happy to help navigate you through the grief process! Reach out today.
Carrie Nicholes is a Maryland Board approved Licensed Certified Social Worker - Clinical (LCSW-C) and the founder of Cedar Counseling & Wellness. Recognized as one of the top therapists in Annapolis, she has a lifelong passion for teaching people tools to improve their lives.