Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Achieving closure

Losing someone we love is never easy, and if there is violence involved or it is sudden and unexpected, that adds a dimension of pain and suffering that is difficult to overcome. Traumatic loss (e.g., a mugging turned violent) and sudden loss (e.g., car accident) are the most difficult kinds of loss to overcome. Having said that, it is truly the meaning of the loss and our coping skills that determine, to a large extent, how soon we can move forward with our lives.

Oftentimes when we lose someone unexpectedly, not only is there no time to prepare ourselves mentally for the loss, we might find it impossible to attend a funeral or a memorial service. For many of us that leaves a void, the process is incomplete, and we tend to refer to our untended feelings as a need for closure. Is there ever, truly, a complete sense of closure when we have loved someone deeply? If the relationship was significant and meaningful, it is highly unlikely tht we will achieve closure, as some therapists and many laypersons like to refer to it.

"Achieve"??? Like it's a goal that can be measured or a finish line that can be crossed? I don't think so. If the relationship was truly significant and meaningful, then the person takes a HUGE piece of us with them, and leaves a big piece of themselves behind in us. The truth of the matter is that we can spend a lifetime "achieving closure," if closure is actually something that can be achieved.

Most of us will have to settle for accepting the loss, then finding a way to live with the loss, and then going about the business of actually living without that person. In time, with hard work, the pain becomes less acute and we can breathe, again, without crying or physically hurting on a regular basis. It is important to be realistic about loss and to understand that the pain will reoccur at unexpected moments in our lives, and at meaningful moments in our lives. And, yes, the pain may take our breath away in that moment of re-experiencing the loss, but, and here's the good news, it goes away much more quickly and with much less effort.

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