In life, things happen, and we as humans want to do anything in our power to make sense of everything as quickly as possible. It helps us heal. For some, we find closure through a conversation, where all issues and questions can be laid out onto a table to be addressed. However, not all of us are so lucky. Sometimes others are unresponsive, and sometimes we are the unresponsive ones. And in some of the hardest times of all, we can’t get closure because the person is no longer with us.
Connecting dots without the help of someone else is like sewing with your eyes closed. You think that you’re going from point A to point B in as smooth a way as possible, but you find that you’ve gone off track completely. The good news is that closure does not have to be perfect. Not every moment in your life will be wrapped up in a neat box and stored on the shelf of your mind. Not everyone will walk out of a situation knowing the whole truth and being at peace with it. All we can hope to do, is heal as fully as we can in order to move forward without carrying those open boxes through our lives.
Here are some ways that I’ve learned to find closure:
I. Empathy – a lot of it.
We’ve all dealt with pain in our lives and every now and then, something will happen that triggers our natural defense mechanisms. This can sometimes happen in a way that breaks important relationships and leaves them unfixable. In moments like these, I’ve found that it’s important to remember the fact that some people don’t even realize that they’re carrying such tremendous pain until a volatile situation brings it to light. Realize that our pasts impact our futures whether we want them to or not, and that finding ways to make sure that the impacts are always positive isn’t always easy. Have enough patience for the other person to realize that they are on their own journey and it may be longer than yours in particular areas.
Now here’s the important balance: While it’s incredibly important to be able to understand why it is someone had the reaction that they had, it does not mean that you have to accept their behavior. Forgiveness and toxic cycles like to hang out in the same ballpark. Because of this, you need to know when it’s healthy to forgive and stay, and when the best thing to do is to forgive and go.
II. Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt.
Writer David Foster Wallace gave a graduation speech titled This Is Water in which he reminded graduates to take the time to see things from the perspectives of others. He said that even if it’s not entirely true, imagining that someone is going through a time worse than you ever had can help you find peace with why it is they act the way they do. For example, instead of harboring anger because the check-out clerk was incredibly rude to you, you can imagine a scenario in which she stayed up until 4 a.m. the night before taking care of her ailing husband and her two young children. Though the likelihood of this being the case is low, it’s not impossible.
This is still a utilization of empathy, but it comes with the strong use of your imagination because you don’t have any knowledge of past experiences that could lead someone to behave in a certain way.
III. Seeking external resources to aid in finding closure.
We can’t do everything alone, and sometimes, trying to fill in the blanks can lead us in a mental spiral. Speaking to someone else – whether it be a therapist, a religious leader, a spiritual guide, a family member or a friend – can help you see things in new ways and help you cultivate a more holistic form of closure. Even just reading a book that gives you a different perspective – one that either challenges or affirms what you think is the right way to go about finding closure – can be a positive experience. Like I said before, we’ve all dealt with pain and/or loss of some sort so we can be a resource to each other in learning how to forgive, how to apologize, and how to move on.
A friend of mine once told me that you’ve truly found closure when you can remember a moment, an event or a relationship without having any stark emotional reaction to it. You just acknowledge it as a part of your life that helped you grow.
What are some ways that you’ve found closure?