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Beyond Closure

on February 21st, 2018 by Rebeccca

While folding clothes yesterday I watched a YouTube video by Nancy Berns with the title: “Beyond Closure.” The title caught my eye as I scanned the recommended videos (thanks to these amazing algorithms that have invaded our life, YouTube knows exactly what I need to watch). That’s what I am aiming for: CLOSURE. On her website, she describes her life goals as “defending the freedom to grieve, protecting joy, inspiring faith, finding beauty in a broken world, and walking beside others during life’s difficult journeys.” Her words made me look at my grieving process and what has changed over the past five months (yes, it really has been five months since Galen died! I still can’t say those words without tears welling up).

Over the past couple months I have been doing a lot of “self care.” Something everyone should do, whether you are grieving or not. Somehow, it’s more acceptable to take good care of yourself when you are grieving the death of your spouse than when you are just dealing with all of life’s daily challenges. I try to eat well (ha ha! have you tried kale brownies??), get lots of sleep, ignore the housekeeping tasks and read a book or go for coffee, take time for yoga, meditation, pedicures. . . My philosophy was that if I take good enough care of myself, I can power through this whole grieving thing and be healed like you heal from a broken leg if you take care of it properly and follow the doctor’s orders. I wasn’t going to be one of these weepy widows who never seem to regain traction and remain mired in the past.

Well, I still don’t want to remain mired in the past, but I have a new way of looking at my grief. As Nancy Berns suggests in the video, you can hold both grief and joy at the same time. You don’t move from one to the other. In our culture, we think that happiness is our birthright and it is not compatible with grief or sadness. Joy is on one side of the room and grief is on the other and you should put your grief in a box and seal it tight, then move over to the other side of the room to joy. But, instead, she claims that that is impossible to do. You have to make room within yourself for both joy and grief at the same time, as your grief will never go away.

So now, instead of comparing my healing to a broken leg, I see it is more like an amputation. Part of my body isn’t just hurt, it is missing. Torn from me in a rather violent way. Chop chop. Now it’s here. Now it is not here. And, like a missing limb, I can still feel the phantom pain. And I will learn to walk again with a prosthesis. I can put it on in the morning and walk normally – it’s almost unnoticable – and then at night I take it off. But all the while I know that my leg is gone. It’s a fake leg I use to get through the day. And I’ll never get my own leg back.

So I know Galen is dead and gone. He’s not coming back. I am getting more used to that with time. But a part of me is missing and no amount of “closure” is going to change that.

| Posted in Grieving

6 Responses to “Beyond Closure”

  1. Cindy Mullet
    February 21st, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks for sharing your insights as you make this hard journey. Holding your grief and joy together reminds me of Kahlil Gibran’s thoughts on joy and sorrow: ““Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into our being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon you bed.
    Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
    When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.”

  2. Agnes Epp
    February 22nd, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    I believe Nancy Berns is right. “Closure” to me means the end or closing of something. And you really don’t want to close off your current life from someone who has meant so much to you. When I was grieving the death of my daughter, I felt more like it was learning to live all over again and without her in my life. During the first few years, (yes, years) when I thought about her, it was more about her death and my sorrow. As time passed, I started remembering more about all the joyous times we had together, and that made me learn to also accept other joys in my life. After 31 years, the pain of losing her has not gone away, but it has been mitigated by remembering all the wonderful times we had.

  3. Bob Kramchynski
    February 25th, 2018 at 10:23 am

    The word ‘closure’ carries such heavy temporal implications with it – and I agree with you that it cannot truly be done without invoking some sort of fakery to bring it about.

    I see our view of time as the culprit in this dilemma. We believe there’s a past, a present, and a future – and closure seems like blocking the past out of the future. Impossible. What if all there is is the present? The past is not over but rather it is the actual accumulation of previous events in the present. The past is what makes the present possible and ALL OF THE PAST is always present in the sense that it serves to configure the nature of what is here/now. So Galen is not closed in fact his impact on this world is always in the present, of course in a different way than it was while he was alive in this same present.

    And the future – how does that fit into this present? Again it all depends on those events that have already passed and left their profound impact on today. Knowing the past and knowing that it is still here/active in this present can help us to create a better future impacted by the wealth of experience that remembering our past brings into the present.

    I think it’s more of an opening than a closure to those who can keep things/events in perspective!

    Joy and sorrow do have a yin & yang to them – they are two aspects of the same emotional experience.

  4. Paulette B
    February 27th, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    What a lovely read. You are my inspiration. Thank you Rebecca.

  5. Paulette B
    March 1st, 2018 at 1:59 pm


  6. Celine Schlosser
    March 1st, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    Wow! You couldn’t have said it better, Rebecca. This is exactly how I feel. There will never be closure: how could there ever be when we were so loved and loved so much. I think that when we can accept that joy and grief will and can co-exist, we will find peace on this difficult journey that we did not choose. I too am a widow having lost my precious Carl, November 25, 2016, to cancer. Hugs!

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