Closure: What it really means and how you can get it

divorce healing Sep 07, 2020

Closure (definition): a feeling that an emotional or traumatic experience has been resolved.

 

“I just want him to say he is sorry for this one thing.”

“If only she could acknowledge how hard I worked while we were still married.”

“I’m desperately trying to reach closure, but I don’t know how to do it without answers.”

 

I hear versions of these statements often from my clients.  Mostly, I wish I had a magic wand to wave and say, poof, here is the phrase, the word, the thing you need to finally feel that mystical sense of closure so that you can move on. 

My experience: Closure comes to you, and comes from you, over time. 

I know you want to know why.  I know you want answers.  You want to hear anything to justify the actions which occurred within your marriage, your separation, your divorce, what you both said or did during mediation, or on the driveway during pick up with your kids.  Looking back, every one of these moments matter to you and you want to feel a sense of calm around where you have been.  I cannot emphasize how strongly I can relate and personally empathize with the feeling.  I remember telling my first ex-husband’s mother, of all people, something to the tune of, “Your son took my formative, child-bearing years and cheated on me!  I wasted YEARS with him; what does he have to say for himself?!?”  Needless to confirm, that conversation did not give me any sense of closure or healing whatsoever.

Whether you’re in the heart of your anger, as I was with my former mother-in-law, or you’re nostalgically reflecting back and wanting that warm touch of acknowledgement on what you both had together, your feelings make sense and are completely normal.  Of course you want to hear something from your ex-spouse that will help you work through your own pain.  You may have even tried to be as open as you can be, attempting to give closure to your ex-spouse.  And still, you’re not getting anything in return.

You will likely feel a sense of closure through every small and large step you take towards getting through the experience of divorce.  You may have magic breakthrough moments, and you may not.  In the end, feeling a sense of closure is possible, and here’s the real secret: It’s not going to come from your ex-spouse. 

This is the harsh truth: Silence is a conversation.  I learned this in my corporate marketing career, as I specialized in bringing together people to improve processes in heavily matrixed organizations.  I would get very close to improving the way something worked between two teams, and then suddenly communication vanished.  We went back to square one.  Silence speaks volumes, and it is a conversation whether you’re willing to listen or not.  If your ex-spouse isn’t speaking to you, they are showing you that they are not capable of giving you what you need. 

Trust me, opening a dialogue with your ex is not going to help you feel a sense of closure.  The silence you experienced from your ex-spouse is the only indication you need to know that they are not capable of giving you what you need.  You are in the process of divorce which means this inability to meet one another’s needs has occurred on many levels throughout your relationship.  Now that the marriage is ending, your ex is not the person to have an emotionally healing dialogue with.  Accept their actions as the only explanation you need, and try to find a sense of gratitude that you now know you deserve so much more.  In my marketing example, the people involved were paid a salary to talk to one another and still didn’t do it consistently or effectively.  My guess is even if someone paid your ex, they wouldn’t be able to do it to your satisfaction.

What you need to do is close the door with your ex to open a door within yourself.  Your closure comes from every single self-care action you do for yourself during this time.  Take care of yourself, be as healthy as possible in your thoughts and actions.  Try to focus on the future when you think about closure. 

I have realized there is literally no turning back the clock.  I can’t make a different choice for my first marriage, or second marriage.  I can, however, make a much more informed and healthy choice for my next relationship.  You have the power of the future in your hands.  Focus on where you’re going instead of flogging yourself for where you’ve been. 

I have clients who hold onto every argument, every indiscretion, every detail about what went wrong so tightly and passionately that they are essentially reliving the trauma for years.  The clients who work through the moments of sadness, pain, anger, and more, and continue to focus on the future they are creating, are those who report feeling this sense of closure much more quickly. 

Closure, this feeling that an emotional or traumatic situation has been resolved, will come to you over time.  Focus your attention on your bright future.  Closure will come.

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