Closure – Maybe not what you want

Words are important.  Words are symbols that are arranged in a certain order - but these string of symbols can carry great significance.  Words can be neutral or packed with negative or positive connotations which are greatly affected by the context in which they are used AND heard.  It is helpful to remember that communication is not just that which was said but also that which is heard and understood.

In the context of the Grief Recovery Method®, we use the word “completion” to describe our goal concerning our relationship with the object of our loss.  Perhaps you are more accustomed to the word closure.   I was personally torn between closure and completion, and I admit that at first, I thought it was splitting hairs, but as I work with the terms, it makes more sense to me.

When I think about closure, phrases like “get over it” or "let it go," “just forget about it and move on. It’s water under the bridge,” or an abrupt unfinished ending comes to mind.  I know in a clinical sense it is certainly more nuanced than this, but often this is what people think when they hear the term closure.  Closure implies closed, finality or as a “period” in a sentence.

But our important relationships stay with us, and for many, it's not enough (or always possible) to just cut it off and move on.  For example:”My husband has died  but I don’t want to forget him and just get over it.” For many, they don’t want closure; they want something else.

If closure is like a period, then completion is like a semicolon - in that it makes room for a continued relationship with those we have lost.  It also makes it easier to address any new aspects arising from loss should they arise.  So, if we are completing the unfinished emotional aspects of the relationship to the present, we are increasing our ability to move forward less encumbered with a fresh perspective - not dragging our unfinished business with us into the future.

Completion looks different for each person because of the unique relationship we have with our loss, but it includes a process of reflection on the relationship and responding in a variety of ways that help you complete the emotional relationship with your loss.  This may include forming and communicating the things we wished we had said, or maybe how we never felt heard, the things we wish were different, better, or more.  Sometimes this means we need to say goodbye to our unmet hopes, dreams and expectations for the future.  While often the person we want to say these things to may not be available, we can say them to a faithful, forgiving friend; who as a witness stands with us as we express our emotions, saying what we need to say.


This is just some of the healing and transformative insights from the Grief Recovery Method®.   The Grief Recovery Method® helps you complete your relationship to the pain, isolation, and loneliness caused by significant emotional loss.  While death and divorce may be fairly obvious kinds of loss, there over 40 other kinds of loss that produce feelings of grief.  LEARN MORE

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