When one door closes, another opens.”

Alexander Graham Bell

 I have heard it so many times in the past.

“I had so much more to say”, the grieving mother tells me. “I didn’t know that we were drifting apart”, the middle-aged man says. “I didn’t know that it was going to turn out this way. “

We have witnessed a terrible year of political unrest, a raging pandemic, and social upheaval. With the conviction of Derek Chauvin in the George Floyd murder trial this last week, many said that they felt they could finally sleep, rest, and feel more at ease with the completion of a long, arduous year of pain and wondering. What did all these people have in common?

They needed closure. They needed to know that all that should have been said had been said. They needed to understand the division and come to terms with the reasons for it. They needed to come to grips with how it actually came out in the end. They needed a verdict to know what to do, how to feel, and how to act next.

What is closure?

Abigail Brenner MD writes about closure in her article 5 Ways to Find Closure From the Past in Psychology Today. She says that “closure means finality; a letting go of what once was. Finding closure implies a complete acceptance of what has happened and an honoring of the transition away from what’s finished to something new. In other words, closure describes the ability to go beyond imposed limitations in order to find different possibilities.”

What does it take to achieve that state of closure that we all long for after a particularly tough situation or problem? We must navigate many sometimes conflicting emotions such as sadness, grief, anger, fear or hate. We may literally lose sleep over it. We may not eat. Our usual routines and comforting daily activities may not be enough to keep us on an even keel any more. We may delay going on with our lives because we simply cannot let go of the past and close the door on what was painful.

If we have lost a job, experienced an assault, had significant family issues, had financial setbacks or myriad other stresses, we may feel that there has been an absolute lack of resolution and that we simply cannot process what happened all the way to its logical end.

What does closure do for us then? It helps us to put a marker down, to delineate the before and the after so that we can decide from which point we actually need to move forward. It closes a chapter on what may have been a very painful part of our lives, but it never closes the entire book. There is always more to be written. Closure allows emotions to pour out, to be expressed and laid bare and dealt with where they are, how they are, for what they are. It allows us to make peace with something, move forward, and to go on with life.

Dr. Brenner states in her article that the ways to go about seeking closure include the following five things: taking responsibility for yourself; grieving the loss; gathering your strengths; making a plan for the immediate future, and creating a ritual that helps you move forward.  

Most people have heard the quote I began this column with, but many do not know the quote in its entirety. Bell supposedly said, “When one door closes, another opens,  but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”

Do you need to seek closure today? If you find it, will you be able to look for the open doors that beckon?

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