How Important Is Closure?

When coming to grips with a sudden change in life, some people feel the need for closure in order to move on. But is it really necessary?

Life can change very quickly, in ways both trivial and profound. You might lose a job, there might be a death in the family, or an appliance you depend on may stop functioning.

When a change like this happens, a natural instinct is to look for some closure. That might mean, respectively, an exit interview, a memorial service, or a repairperson’s visit. Once the closure happens, you can move on with your life.

However, closure is not something that occurs in our lives. We are born into a world that is already in motion, and as we grow and learn, we have to get up to speed on the state of things (and pick up some history as well).

Even when we meet someone new, we come in the middle of their story. And if they drift away, as friends sometimes do, there isn’t usually any sort of meaningful end point.

There is little doubt, though, that as a species we crave the sense of narrative completion. We look for it in the movies we watch, the books we read, and in other media we consume. A disappointing finale can ruin an entire TV series.

So which is it? Is a sense of closure necessary to process the events of the day? Or is it irrelevant, just an artificial narrative we construct that has no inherent meaning?

How important is closure?

Related questions: Why are people afraid of death? What can you control? Scripted or unscripted? How do you find peace when you need it?

2 thoughts on “How Important Is Closure?”

  1. Closure is extremely important. But what it looks like is entirely dependent on the person and situation. (I can only answer for myself.) Actually getting closure at the times we want it can be challenging.

    First, the primary closure events for death — wakes and funerals — serve me no purpose. In fact, my situation is worsened by attending them. And I wish people would realize that most of these events are not only not helpful for me to attend, it doesn’t serve other attendees either. I become someone to “deal with.” I get that part of being at a wake or funeral is partially to honor the person who has just passed and partly to be there as part of a community. However, I still think my presence is not only unnecessary. Others should understand it as unhelpful. My grieving process regarding death is random and unknown to me. I just have to do what feels suitable to the particular situation. That said, soon, I will attend a celebration of life. I am willing to try this as it seems to lighten the load and free up personal options for healthy grieving later.

    When an abrupt breakup of a close relationship happens because something wrong enters the equation, this is the situation where closure becomes necessary but perhaps the hardest to make happen.

    Closure can also happen by someone (e.g., me) just letting go without any requirement that the other party has to do anything. When this can be done (which I have done a few times in my life), the liberating feeling is profound. Just letting baggage disappear really does feel like a weight has been lifted.

  2. I totally agree with all Michael said. Back in college, I was an emotional wreck for many months due to a person leaving me with no explanation and no possible follow-up.

    As a generalization, we humans being experts at adaptability, we can eventually let go, whether the real-life painful events (deaths, relationships ending, etc.) or the bad movie endings, but each of us does it at our own pace, and some are far more able to do so than others. It seems, from my experience — and perhaps rather obviously, to depend on the seriousness of the event. But it’s like processing a trauma in general: some can shunt the event to the background and look to the future, and some dwell on the past forever. (And of course, some can balance both of those options.)

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