~Orchid in renewed growth – grace, strength, health, durability
Closure. What an enticing fantasy. It would be so comforting to think that all the grief will stop some day soon. Then life will proceed as before. The pain will come to an end. The hurt will be terminated, especially by the passing of time.
So it is said: “Time heals all wounds.” But it doesn’t. Time is a neutral force. It is perpetually available for our use. How we use it makes all the difference. Time does not conclude grief. Time does not close the pain. Would that wishing made it so. It doesn’t. An impossible dream. To expect it is to be disappointed, further saddened by the failure of hope. Then to feel isolated, abandoned, and defeated. Broken.
To promise closure to a bereaved person is false and unkind. It causes agitation, anger, and loneliness. The words produce a paradoxical effect: the survivor’s suffering is increased. Instead of being uplifted by intended compassion, he feels misunderstood – a stranger in a strange land.
Closure is necessary for the dying. It is impossible, unrealistic and beyond all reason, for those who survive. For the survivor, there is no such thing as closure.
Definitions clarify. Closure means the conclusion of grief. It is the act of bringing grief to an end, a finish, a close. It is the feeling of finality, a termination, a settlement. It usually has a time frame. However, it is the creation of our imagination, a wish fulfillment unfulfilled. Dreaming doesn’t make it so. Closure is a myth of the modern American death-denial syndrome. It is a symptom of our death terror. Grief does not close.
Instead, it transforms. In our minds, it transitions into a New World, a symphony of love and longing and renewal. We gradually discover a new relationship with the lost loved one. Death may end a life but it does not end a relationship. It is a relationship on a different plane of existence, one that transcends the physical universe. A different level of development. And yes, it does continue to develop. It is not closed. It does not go away. We grow into the future, the future of the past.
This time we know that the relationship is for keeps. It does not disappear. It does not stop. It does not cease to exist. It will not die. “Always” and “forever” are promises that we can now make in good faith. In our memory, the relationship has an astonishing ability to survive.
What we cannot do alone, we can do together. We need others. To be human is to seek community. We need to talk and to be heard. Learning how to manage, what to do, and how to become. We look for understanding and affirmation, respect and a compassionate listening ear. Listening is profoundly affirmative, healing, and helps to bring the survivor back into the world of the living. That New World does not close off the survivor’s relationship to the lost loved one. On the contrary, it embraces the dead especially as ongoing living history.
Grief does not close. Rather, it opens. It changes us, widens and deepens our life perspective. “It is the cycle of life and death.”** Grief redefines the Self as we perceive it – past, present, and future. It opens, not closes. With our own inner grief work and others by our side, we gradually find times of peace, of healing, and of transformation. It is far better than “closure.”
That is ultimately our fondest hope and our good fortune as we proceed, continually acclimate, adjust, and strive to succeed. With hope comes responsibility to act, to struggle with adaptation. What counts is the courage to continue. Love is stronger than death. Hold that thought. Hold the relationship with love.
That is a hallmark of our strength and growth.
*This essay was prompted by Bart Sumner’s blog post, “Raking Leaves,” a father’s grief: http://thegrieftoolbox.com/article/rakingleaves#.VE_HIMeQc8Q.wordpress, @BartSumner, @Healing_Improv
**Bart Sumner, “Raking Leaves”
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” [ Death: The Final Stage of Growth, 1975 ]
Beautiful people do not just happen.
Grief opens and transforms.
Rea Ginsberg is a retired director of social work services, hospice coordinator, and adjunct professor of clinical social work. She can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @rginsberg2.
#end of life, #grief, #closure, #finality, #hope, #growth, #courage, #community, #transformation, #love
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