Closure Isn’t a Thing in Grief and That’s Okay
For Funeral Professionals : 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.
We wrote a book!
After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief
for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible,
What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.
You can find What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss wherever you buy books:
20 Comments on "Closure Isn’t a Thing in Grief and That’s Okay"Click here to leave a Comment
Daisy July 24, 2022 at 8:41 pm
Sudden passing of soul mate of 20 years. He became a grandfather of 4 over those years. Sadly, I never measured up in his family’s eyes and they never welcomed me or our grandchildren into their fold ever. So we kept our distance, we didn’t accompany his visits, we creating our own wonderful memories as the gchildren grew. It was also easy to keep the kids unaware that his family would totally ignore any of the kids’ photos posted to FB; always met with 0 likes, 0 comments from his family…absolute antipathy. Now partner has passed, grandchildren are teens and reading my partner’s obituary guestbook and FB page seeing that NONE of his immediate family members or relatives offer condolences to I (predictable) but very sadly, NONE to the grandchildren. It’s hard to explain to them. His mother, siblings and cousins more or less speak of their grief, not the wonderful traits of a son, brother, relative helping to raise 4 children, nor have they inquired directly of me or their respective emotional states. I am rendered speechless as well angry as they are now also disrespecting a son/brother/relative’s memory by this continued shunning. I am inclined to tell his family that they are welcome to arrange their own memorial service for son / brother etc. (that we, I, daughter or grands will not attend). The grandchildren are picking up on the shunning via the obit guestbook not to mention the FB pages. As well, his family are intimidating me to just give them a hard date for a “celebration of life” service I suggested in my very early days of grief. Partner has been cremated. They insist they need this date to find “closure”. Since when am I, the surviving spouse, responsible for their closure? Am I going crazy?
Tim April 25, 2021 at 4:14 pm
My dad died 21 years ago when I was 15. He died of alcoholism – due to the physical and mental abuse subjected to him by my mother. Over the course of 3 years he drank himself to death. People say to me that ‘time is a healer’. It is isn’t in the sense that they mean. I miss him so much, some days I don’t, but the days when I do make up for the days when I don’t.
There will never be any closure. I won’t ever have the answers to my questions, i’ll still live with the guilt (albeit it not as strong) that I should have done something, or that I contributed to his unhappiness. He’ll never meet my son, of my wife, or his other grandchildren. I’ll never be able to buy him a drink or take him to a football match – returning the gestures that he gave to me. People need to stop putting a timeline on grief – whoever you lose, in whatever circumstances it will always be with you until you die. And that is fine, but people need to accept that and allow the griever to grieve and that may be intermittently across their lifetime.
Let’s be real here. Grief is when you miss something so much that it takes your brief away and you know that it can’t be replaced. So if your grieving – just take your time and find and follow your own path. If you’re supporting someone who is grieving, give them time, don’t treat them like a case study that you’d read in a psychology book or on a blog and realise that they are in pain and that you might be in that pain one day.
Elizabeth March 26, 2021 at 8:01 pm
My husband of 22 years was killed in a car crash.
It’s left me and my children in ruins. I can’t see how the future will unfold without him with us.
And can’t see a new life for me.
Sandi March 18, 2021 at 11:35 am
I understand and embrace you all. I have disenfranchised grief from the unexpected loss of my adult son, and I haven’t yet found a counselor familiar with this sort of grief. Having lost him unexpectedly and violently, I found that it shattered everything in my life. All of my values, beliefs, and hopes. Counselors, I think, mean well – but they can say the most thoughtless things. I think the two worst are: “well, it’s been awhile, its time to move on and care for you.” Really? REALLY?? How do you ‘move on’ when everything you’ve ever believed no longer is believable? The other one I get is “at least you had those years with him…at least he wasn’t a child.” And I think Do you HEAR what you are saying?? My child who went from my adorable baby to my funny child to a thoughtful & inquisitive teenager to a man who walked in kindness and awareness to others; from my brand-new baby boy to my (I believed) lifelong friend/equal. It’s hard…it is SO hard…I smile to make it easier on others, and nobody sees me screaming inside. …thanks for having this website I just found.
Kathy March 26, 2021 at 7:57 pm
I’m so sorry what you’re going through. I cannot imagine your pain. Don’t give up on finding a therapist or psychologist. There are great ones who are trained in grief therapy and have the life experience to truly help you
Cindy March 8, 2021 at 2:37 pm
I totally relate.i lost my soulmate in 2019 to heart failure .it was one of my worst moments in life ..the grief isn’t as raw as it was then I moved on though. I normally remember him from time to time.yearn to see him again .n his love is still there ..it is crazy how love never really ends I came to peace with the fact that the incident and grief is part of my life.i do not fight it . Though nowadays it is pretty easy .
Denise February 24, 2021 at 12:52 am
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. 💙
Ms Pendear February 24, 2021 at 9:49 pm
First I’ll begin with I am so sorry for the loss of your spouse after 40 years. I lost my daughter in 2019 after 38 years. It breaks my heart your sudden loss and it breaks my heart that my loss came after a 4 year fight from breast cancer. As I think about the things that make me cry and laugh, I learned early that not even death can close that book.
Candy Miller February 23, 2021 at 1:54 am
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.
Elizabeth March 26, 2021 at 8:03 pm
I’m so sorry about your puppy.
I remember when our dog died and how painful that was, she was our little kid
Theresa February 22, 2021 at 9:08 pm
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..?
Jane Jordan February 21, 2021 at 8:38 am
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.
Ginny April 1, 2021 at 11:02 pm
I do not believe the stage of ACCEPTANCE ever comes.
Marva February 5, 2021 at 11:16 am
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 .
Isabelle Siegel February 9, 2021 at 10:13 am
Marva, I’m so very sorry for your loss. It sounds like you and your husband had a very special love. I can only imagine how difficult it has been to grieve your husband in the context of the pandemic. I recommend you check out these resources: https://whatsyourgrief.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Grief-Covid-Document.pdf and https://school.whatsyourgrief.com/p/grief-isolation-covid All the best to you.
CP February 4, 2021 at 5:52 pm
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
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.
firstname.lastname@example.org March 9, 2021 at 6:34 am
I buried my 32 year old son three months ago, I buried half my heart with him. The other half beats for my remaining daughter but there is nothing left for life itself. I feel for you all in your respective losses
anonymous February 4, 2021 at 1:18 pm
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.