Freedom to Grieve

Protecting grief from "closure," consumerism, politics, and other cultural distortions

Bad Breakup? How to Get Beyond Closure

What do you do after the end of a relationship?

After a breakup, people often wonder, “Do I need closure?”  No, you do not need closure, but there are other things you need.

From romantic breakups to terrorist attacks people are told to find closure after bad things happen—“a satisfying ending” to a bad event.

Closure has become central for explaining what people supposedly need to find in order to heal after a loss. Yet there is no agreed upon answer for what closure means or how you are supposed to find it. Closure has been described—in contradictory ways—as justice, peace, healing, acceptance, forgetting, remembering, forgiveness, moving on, answered questions, or revenge.

Advice columns about relationships often tell people to find closure. An emerging divorce party industry also uses the concept in order to sell a range of products including cakes, break-up party invitations, cards, and divorce gifts. There are break-up party games that are supposed to help you find closure, such as Pin-the-Tale-on-the-Ex, and the Penis Piñata. And you are encouraged to find closure by buying Bury the Jerk kits or Wedding Ring Coffins in order to “bury the past” and move on.

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But closure is not some naturally occurring emotion that we can simply find with the right advice. Healing? Yes, healing is possible, but that is different from closure.

Here are some thoughts on how to heal—beyond closure—after a breakup.

1. Forget “closure.” You can heal without closure, even though you may carry some pain as you move forward.

2. Recognize the loss from a breakup and give yourself time to grieve. Don’t just gloss over the loss and ignore the pain by “celebrating.”

3. Take the high road. You’ve likely lost a lot and the pain can lead to anger. Try to let go of anger and desire for revenge; vengeance is not a path to healing.

4. Free yourself from negativity. Don’t put down your ex and ask friends and family to not make disparaging remarks. Talking bad about your ex keeps you in a cycle of pain.

5. Find a friend, clergy member, or counselor who will listen to your pain without fanning flames of anger.

6. Seek forgiveness.

7. Learn to live with some questions. You don’t have to understand everything that happened.

8. Identify what is missing now that you are not in that particular relationship and find ways to slowly rebuild your life.

9. Hope in tomorrow without trying to erase your past. You will not always feel so bad, and you can find joy again even before the pain ends

We can heal after a breakup and even grow from it, but that does not have to include the overused and misunderstood notion of “closure.”

 

Nancy Berns is the author of Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us. Visit her online at www.nancyberns.com.

 

Nancy Berns, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Drake University and the author of Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us.

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