The Closure Debate

After my first post, a friend sent me a link to Nancy Berns TEDx-talk on Closure. That friend had recently lost one of her newborn twins and the video helped her find comfort in her journey with loss. I agree- it’s a must watch for anyone dealing with grief and perhaps struggling with the idea of “closure”. (Scroll down for the video)

Closure is a concept we’ve all heard of, right? It’s that thing that happens when we can stop feeling sad and start feeling happy again. It’s that last conversation, or that last goodbye after a long, complicated illness. It’s getting all your questions answered. It’s the burial or spreading the ashes of a loved one. It’s planting a tree in their name. Closure is a particularly attractive concept, but does it really exist? Do these things really bring “closure”?

What about the times where closure seems like a far reach from reality? We didn’t get to say everything we wanted to say. We are dealing with a future so much different than we envisioned. We don’t want to close things up and forget. Maybe we don’t even know what happened. What now? How do we heal? Nancy challenges our societal norms and says, “Closure doesn’t even exist. It’s a made up concept that we use to talk about loss and grief, but seeking it can do more harm than good.”

In her talk, Nancy discusses society’s learned definition of “Closure” as stepping entirely away from Grief and fully into Joy. In fact, our society attempts to keep Joy and Grief very separate. In our society, Joy is pleasant and comfortable and Grief is awkward and taboo. But she argues that in actuality, these emotions go hand in hand. She sums it up by saying:

Joy and Grief are intertwined.
We wouldn’t Grieve if our loved ones didn’t give us Joy.
We Grieve because we Love.

I recently sent a text to my friends who lost their newborn baby boy 6 months ago. It read:

July 12, 2013  “Today has been a really hard day for me in missing my mom. Just wanted to share with you, in understanding, that even after much processing, there still will be these days. Today I realized the down of the sadness is equal in intensity to the up of love I shared with her, and for a brief moment, the two feelings actually merged in my body. I could physically feel it. When I realized the low was coming from the high, I felt so grateful for that love, that it ever was at all. Just wanted to share with you two – maybe you have felt this way.”

The reality is, we can walk with grief and joy, hand in hand. We don’t actually require “Closure” to heal, and infact, seeking closure may be the very thing that holds us back from healing fully. When we can embrace the fact that grieving and healing from loss is a process, and doesn’t have a definitive end, or closure, we are much more able to meet ourselves, and others, where they are.

With Love,


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One comment on “The Closure Debate
  1. Wow. This is so true, and I had never even thought about it that way. The intensity of the grief that we feel after a loss is equal to the intensity of the love that we had for it. If the grieving process is super painful, we can be happy to know that the love and light shared with that person was astounding. It makes so much sense when it’s put this way. Brilliant.

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  1. […] the ups and downs, the joy and laughter, the tears and sorrow. Often, there is a serendipitous relationship between joy and grief that exists, so this can be a time to look deeply at the love and the joy that travels along side […]