Closure is any interaction, information, or practice that allows a person to feel that a traumatic, upsetting, or confusing life event has been resolved. The term has its origins in Gestalt psychology, but it is more commonly used to refer to the final resolution to a conflict or problem.
What Is Closure?
The importance of closure, particularly after a traumatic event, is increasingly acknowledged in popular psychology. The need for closure often centers around a need for a missing piece of information, particularly about why someone did or said something. What constitutes closure varies from person to person and is highly dependent upon the context surrounding a stressful event. Examples of closure might include:
- Receiving an apology from someone who committed a crime against you.
- Receiving financial compensation for an injury.
- Finding out the cause of a loved one’s death.
- Conducting a ritual to mark the end of a relationship–burning photos, writing a letter that is not sent, and so on.
- Meeting with an ex-partner or ex-spouse, perhaps with a counselor, to discuss why the relationship ended or to learn why one partner was unfaithful.
People seek answers and explanations: They want to know why. However, finding answers does not necessarily end pain. Sometimes a person who seeks closure finds that an explanation makes no difference, or that it actually worsens their pain. Others find that closure may simply be a starting point for moving past a painful event. Though the trauma is not resolved, the person is better able to work through it. Seeking a definitive way to finalize grief and move on belies the importance of the grieving process. Simply putting an end to one’s painful memories may be more harmful than helpful.
In some cases, though, closure is a profoundly transformative experience that does allow the person to move past the traumatic event. For example, a victim of abuse may need to confront the abuser and see them imprisoned before he or she can begin to feel safe again. In acknowledgment of this, the criminal justice system is increasingly recognizing the need for closure by instituting programs allowing victims and their families to meet with offenders in a controlled setting.
Is Closure a Myth?
The belief that a particular process can bring grief to an end may be appealing, but it is not always possible, and not all mental health professionals accept the concept of closure. In fact, some argue that attempts at closure may actually be attempts to relive trauma or drag out a painful experience. A woman who wants to meet with her ex-husband, for example, might be seeking connection rather than closure. People can benefit from recognizing the emotions they are actually experiencing and dealing with them appropriately, in order to live with their loss. Whether or not closure actually exists, the necessity—and importance—of progress cannot be denied.
- American Psychological Association. APA concise dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2009. Print.
- Dreher, C. (2011, September 4). The myth of closure. Boston.com. Retrieved from http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/health/articles/2011/09/04/the_myth_of_closure/
Last Updated: 10-8-2015
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veraAugust 6th, 2016 at 11:47 PM
Hello everyone, someone helped me out when I thought my life is lost & didn’t know where its going……… It all started when the father of my two kids left me and he swore to never to have anything to do with me. All my effort’s to get him back prove to be abortive and I decided to let things be the way they are because I felt my life was lost & I don’t know where its going. Priest A came into the picture and things turned out to be how I have ever dreamed it to be like. I will forever be grateful to him for the rest of my life, Am so happy!!!!!!!!!!
johnNovember 17th, 2016 at 5:39 PM
Silent screams, hidden cries
Failed attempts, half hearted tries
A broken spirit, pain repressed
A soul depressed
An opened wound
No closure to heal
Part a child, unable to feel
The crushing pain
My soul was dealt
The endless sorrow
Since I’ve felt……….
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