Redefining Closure in Order to Move On and Get Living Again

“You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.” ~Unknown

I would love to identify as someone who, when her relationships crumble either gradually or all at once, is able to wipe her hands clean and go about her life without any closure.

I fantasize about the tears, time, and energy I would save if I didn’t feel the need for closure and if I didn’t agonize about trying to have these heartfelt and “necessary” conversations with the people with whom I’ve had falling outs.

For years, I was shackled to the belief that there must be a formal end to a relationship or role, and until that happens, it’s impossible to move on.

In life, not all relationships continue to flourish. It’s brave to recognize that and to move on from toxic relationships, or those that don’t contribute to your growth or well-being. But how does one go about that transition when formal closure is not always an option?

It’s not weird to feel the need for closure. In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that it’s a necessary part of the relationship cycle. The more I explore the notion of closure, however, the more convinced I become that the issue isn’t about closure per se, but rather redefining what closure is.

When we think of closure, a certain image or idea might come to mind.

Maybe it’s opposing parties sitting down and talking, crying, laughing in order to get to a place where everyone involved can accept the end or shift of a relationship.

Maybe it ends with a hug, or maybe it doesn’t.

Maybe it still hurts, but at least accept that it’s the end.

It’s hard to create new beginnings when you are preoccupied with old endings. 

Closure is something to meditate on, because sometimes closure is not found in plain sight.

The more I think about closure, the more convinced I am that there’s no set formula for it. It can come in millions of forms. If you start investigating closure with new eyes, I bet you can achieve some aspects of it that you weren’t even aware of.

Closure isn’t always a grand gesture or conversation. Maybe closure is the first time you’re able to set a new boundary, saying “no” when you’re a certified people pleaser.

Maybe it’s being able to finally go through the belongings of a loved one whose life was taken with little or no notice.

If you’re confused or having trouble subscribing to this idea, let me share my own closure experience with you.

My mother has narcissistic personality disorder and definitely displays characteristics of bipolar disorder as well.

For the better part of my life, our relationship has been very rocky. Since I was thirteen, we have been through multiple estrangements that have lasted minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and even years at various times.

These estrangements always seemed so fuzzy. Was it the end of our relationship, or was it a hiatus? I never knew whether I should commit to reviving the relationship or begin the process of moving on.

Sometimes I wanted it to be final so I could recover from the mental abuse and create a new life where self-loathing was replaced with self-love. But how could I?

We didn’t have a formal conversation about it. I didn’t feel okay. I didn’t take my mom’s texts that read, “I should’ve aborted you,” or, “You’re dead to me, forget my number” as acceptable forms of closure.

But what was acceptable closure? I wasn’t sure how much more obvious her message could have been. But I thought maybe she didn’t mean it. I didn’t feel ready to move on, so I didn’t accept that as closure.

For years, I asked myself, “What am I needing in order to be able to move on?”

Then I got quiet and I listened.

I realized that I thought I needed to hear her say sorry, or if she couldn’t do that, for us to be able to sit down and have a rational conversation. I thought that was the only way I could pick up my broken pieces and live a fulfilling life.

Through years of therapy, education, tears, relying on my support systems, and intense introspection, I discovered that I was never going to get that.

My mother is mentally incapable of believing she could be even slightly flawed. She is incapable of giving me what I thought I needed.

Just when I was running out of ways to self-destruct and I felt myself hitting a new bottom, I decided that just because my mother couldn’t help me achieve the type of closure I desired, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t get there on my own.

I began the life-long process of retraining my brain, engaging in self-love and self-care, and going within to give myself what I needed when others couldn’t.

I might not have gotten everything I wanted exactly in the way that I had envisioned, but I was able to get myself to a place where I understood and accepted my relationship (or lack thereof) with my mother.

I was ready to move on and learn to begin a new chapter of my life.

Some days it comes easier than others. There are times when I want to dwell on how much it sucks that I have to work so hard to feel okay sometimes.

On the tough days, I am learning to go inward. I practice positive self-talk, celebrate how far I’ve come, and remind myself that closure is not just one thing. I remind myself that I have the power to create all the closure I need if I keep practicing and having faith.

If you are a creature of closure, there’s no need to shame yourself or to try to change who you are. Maybe it’s about learning to become a detective for closure in your everyday life in order to find it in your own way.

The path to closure is rarely an easy or clear-cut one, but I invite you to see closure through a new lens.

As you embark on this journey, remember to be gentle with yourself. It’s okay to acknowledge where there is room for improvement, but please do not overlook successes, no matter the size.

Meditate on the idea that you possess the ability to find closure on your own in ways you never thought possible. Consider the belief that you could be free. Bask in the notion that you’re in control.

If you do achieve closure, remember that you’re the one who is responsible for such a feat.

About Melanie Hoffman

Melanie Hoffman is an aspiring writer and LMHC, currently working toward her Masters in Mental Health Counseling at SUNY Oswego. She loves how, as a counselor, she can support others as they empower themselves to grow and change. Melanie is also passionate about practicing to live a life full of love, joy, and adventure. Connect with Melanie on LinkedIn here.

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