Closure Isn’t a Thing in Grief and That’s Okay

Understanding Grief / Understanding Grief : Eleanor Haley


Hello, grief friends, new friends, old friends, friends of friends, you know…all the friend categories. Today we have a quick post aimed at dispelling one of the most exasperating myths in grief.

There are a handful of reasons why people expect closure in grief. For much of our history, grief theory models have given people the impression that grief follows a set of stages or tasks. So, many people think grief is a finite process with a beginning and an end.

For example, if you were to poll random people on the street and ask them what they know about grief, I bet things like denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance would be at the top of the list. This is because most of our society has heard of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ ‘Five Stages of Grief’ and believed it to be a literal description. 

People think that completing a set of stages or tasks, or just letting time pass in general, will lead to closure in grief. However, this is a misconception, and I’m sorry to say, this isn’t how grief works at all. 

Another reason why some seek closure in grief is that they believe grief is synonymous only with things that are distressing, painful, and bad. Experiencing the death of a loved one is a nightmare. So when I say “grief never ends,” many people hear that as “the nightmare never ends,” which seems unfathomable.

Like most living organisms, we are pain averse. The idea of living with ongoing pain without eventually finding relief goes against our instincts. But, grief is far more nuanced and complex than people understand until they’ve experienced it for themselves. 

Most grieving people will tell you that the ache never goes away; the love you have for that person never goes away. Grief means learning to love someone despite their physical absence. To quote Dr. Thomas Attig, who has written extensively on grief,

“When we learn to love in separation, we fulfill our deep desire to continue loving and to feel our loved ones’ love for us. And we fulfill their deep desires to be remembered and cherished for what they have given and continue to give even after they’ve died.”

Grief is inherent in loving someone you can’t be close to or reunited with. So, even years later, we are likely to feel things like longing, aching, and yearning at times. We talk a little more in-depth about closure in grief in the brief video below. Please take a few minutes to check it out.

We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

Let’s be grief friends.

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10 Comments on "Closure Isn’t a Thing in Grief and That’s Okay"

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  1. Denise  February 24, 2021 at 12:52 am Reply

    I lost my husband of 40 years in July 2020 due to a motorcycle accident. I knew he was going for a ride, which is something he did on Sundays. I gave him a hug and kiss, and left for the grocery store. I haven’t seen him since.

    The hardest part throughout this grief journey, no closure. I expected him to walk through the door many days. I miss the day to day stuff; what’s for dinner? Are we going to the gym today? What time is the Dodger game on? Of course, the fact that we cannot make new memories, breaks my heart.

    Our grown children have been my rock. I don’t know what I’d do without them? But, of course they lost their Dad also.

    I talk out to him often. Cry when unexpected, laugh when thinking of his crazy personality. He always made me 😆.

    Grief, and what it entails, is just love. 💙

  2. Candy Miller  February 23, 2021 at 1:54 am Reply

    My dog passed 3wks ago.i feel her lift up my bed every night.then had a dream she was running to me on a beach.what does that mean.

  3. Theresa  February 22, 2021 at 9:08 pm Reply

    I have lost my Beautiful Mom, best friend, Warrior, cheerleader, safety net. Just 3 weeks ago. She lost her battle with pulmonary fibrosis Lung Disease. It went very quickly, she was diagnosed in September 2020 and Passed January 31st. She had been in the hospital twice since September and then came home on hospice and me and my two sisters cared for her until she passed. And although we watched it take place we are all a mess. Our mom was our best friend she loved to be with her girls and husband. We were all so close for especially the last 20 years. I break down everyday now. The first 2 weeks I was numb.. I have had to go back to work… but, I want her back I feel I don’t know how to live without her, Hi honey, I love you, what have you been up to? I want to text or call her to tell her how I am feeling.. and she would always say want me to come over?, want a burrito? Or diet coke.. how do I move on..?

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  4. Jane Jordan  February 21, 2021 at 8:38 am Reply

    The five stages were originally presented as a way for people facing a terminal illness to navigate their experience. It was later stated that SOME of the same emotions were present in the grieving process. I want to point out that EKR NEVER presented the stages as a neat formula to follow. She was adamant about that in her teaching. The stages have been “pop culturized”. I wish you would correct this misinformation that EKR presented this as a tidy formula.

  5. Marva  February 5, 2021 at 11:16 am Reply

    I loss my husband of 47 years May 2020 to Cancer caused by agent orange. My husband was a Vietnam veteran. I am so lost, lonely, confused, angry, the list goes on. I know God is sovereign and his will must be done and accepted. I miss my husband more than words cannot explain. He was love of my life. He loved me so much. We did everything together. Some say i am grieving too much. This upset me coming from people who never experienced losing a spouse. My spouse and I were actually one. I miss him company, talks, preaching, jokes, Jim taking care of me. I wanted for nothing. If he knew I wanted it , he would do his best to get it. He constantly told me God gave me to him and that God knew what he was doing. He could not imagine having anyone else to take care of him. I cry often, I talk to him when I get up, or have to make decisions, kids doing something I don’t think is right, I keep his picture on my car and talk to him when I’m in the car. There so much I wish I could have done with him. We had so many plans after I retired. Taking RV across country amd ministering to people, traveling to some other countries. Oh well, God had other plan. Praying for everyone who loss someone or multiple family or love ones. God is going to take care of us. He going to eventually send us comfort and peace. Thankful for the time we had, our children and family. Grateful to God for keeping us through a pandemic and all the other stuff. Grief process is not easy at anytime but hhis pandemic makes it so much harder. I was not able to give my husband an appropriate funeral service. Only 10 people could be at the service I was not allowed at the cemetery I feel so bad about this. I don’t feel like I had appropriate closure .

  6. CP  February 4, 2021 at 5:52 pm Reply

    I can relate to this. I’ve started to become aware that grief isn’t something I’ll ever ‘get over’, its more like something I’ll just to live with. The death of my partner has permanently changed me / marked me – no amount of time will undo this, but I can learn to accept this new sense of identity and try and find new sources of meaning and joy alongside the constant presence of my past.

    • Cynthia Karolak  February 15, 2021 at 4:10 am Reply

      I lost my husband and I feel I can’t move on. He was my life and I don’t know how to live without him 😭. It is so hard for me and my grown children. He was only 62 years old. We were planning to do so many things, however, God took him from me. We were married 35 years. I’m lost without him. God help me please..

      • Isabelle Siegel  February 17, 2021 at 12:21 pm

        Cynthia, I’m truly so sorry for your loss and for the unbearable pain you’re being forced to endure. I hear that you feel pressure to “move on,” but please know that it’s okay if you can’t or don’t want to. I highly recommend you check out this article: https://whatsyourgrief.com/grief-recovery-is-not-a-thing/ Perhaps it would be helpful for you to seek out the support of a therapist trained in grief and bereavement, which you can find here: https://grief.com/grief-counselor-directory/. All the best to you and your children.

  7. anonymous  February 4, 2021 at 1:18 pm Reply

    Thank you for this post and the video.

    I had just been thinking that maybe my contributions over these past few years had been unsettling to my “grief friends” who may not believe in an afterlife as I do.
    And I wanted to write to apologize.

    Being reminded of Continuing Bonds was helpful, though.

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