When One Door Closes, Another One Opens

How soon after a loss are you aware of many other possibilities? Ever?

Posted Aug 21, 2020

Yesterday I overheard two Filipino men in their 30s talking about the loss of the girlfriend of one of them: “She just ended it. No reason. How can I get her back? I love her.”

“She’s gone, man. Accept it. You’ll grieve for a while but remember…” and then he said that piece of popular wisdom quoted in the title: “When one door closes another one opens.” My first thought was, “How interesting that this piece of popular wisdom is cross-cultural.” My next thought was, “Is it true?” 

Does the ending of any particular chapter in your life — your youth, your love affair, a good job — bring with it the next chapter (implied “better” and new)? Surely, life without the one you love will certainly be different, but better? That’s what a newly opening door means to me: an opportunity.  Does it to you? At any rate, this piece of wisdom didn’t seem to bring with it any comfort in this conversation. Maybe later, after his initial sadness?

Perhaps this comfort is like what someone who has lost a loved one through death hears frequently: “She’s in a better place.” Sure, like up in smoke or under six feet of earth? These popular words of comfort only apply to those whose belief in a heavenly afterlife is secure. It does nothing for me but annoy, and were it my own loss, infuriate.

But the opening door axiom: In the first place, would it comfort you in a loss? Would you suddenly see dozens of possible attractive partners or jobs on the horizon? Our vision for possibilities narrows upon a loss and so soon upon it, I don’t think this broadens it. Would this phrase suddenly widen your vision, allowing you to see more outcomes that aren’t as gloomy as your current feelings of loss?

And as a cheering-up comment, would it do it for you? Maybe, after the initial loss and grief over it this might remind me that there are other fish in the sea, more possibilities, a broadening new look at the world around, but Man #2 was offering this bromide at a time of fresh grief for his friend. Not very comforting, I say. Maybe later, after his freshest feelings of loss. His friend might be more helpful if he said, “I know you miss her, but I have a lovely woman I’d like to introduce you to. Are you ready to start dating again?” Now that would be helpful!