What do we mean by 'closure?' Is there truly such a thing as 'closure?' Do we really close the door on the past? Should we?
To me, closure sounds very final. There's no going back. True, I close the door to my house when I leave for work in the morning, but I do open it when I return in the evening. We close the cover of a book when we finish reading it. But, we may want to reread the book. So, is 'closure' really final? Is that what we really mean? But closure on the past suggests we choose to leave it behind us. We don't want to go back. And going back, or not, might depend on the situation. But, in my opinion, most of us mean letting go of past hurts in order to move forward, instead of actual closure. If we just close the door, the hurts will always be there, collecting in the storeroom of our emotional clutter, ready to burst forth if we ever open the door, even so slightly.
I was reminded of this just this week. A friend called to let me know a former friend from our past had unexpectedly passed away. The deceased and I had drifted apart and back together a number of times. I finally walked away again, and moved forward, in time never looking back. To me, the door was closed. Upon hearing of her death, I reflected on the times when our paths were joined, which then stirred up a lot of anger at the old hurts she had caused. Obviously, I had just tucked them away, not fully letting go.
I'm going to reach back to my Christian roots for this post. A relationship, and I include relatives and friendships in this definition, needs to be on equal footing for it to work. I remember one of my pastors preaching about "not being unequally yoked," meaning believers should not marry non-believers. Translating this point of view into this post, as we all walk our life's path, we will encounter people along the way who will be there with us, guiding us, and teaching us lessons. Some will remain on the path a while as friends, lovers, or even as marriage partners. Some will remain for a few steps, some a while longer. Some will veer off the path, only to return at a later intersection. But while traveling together, both must travel at the same pace. Once one person outpaces the other, the yoke begins to drag the lead person down and must be let go. Letting go is never easy, for each person may stumble and fall at the release, getting hurt in the process. But, in time, each will heal and pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again venturing off in their own directions.
I think we need to do whatever we must in order to let go of the hurts of an ending relationship. When my first partner died, I knew I had to return to Disneyland. He was such a Disney fanatic, we were there very frequently. I had to visit it without him to let go and move forward.
Letting go is never easy. It must be a conscious decision, a willingness to release the emotion, to venture into an unknown area, 'How will I feel after I let go?' 'Will I be ok?' Many people would rather stay with what they know than to venture into unknown territory, especially emotional territory. Feelings can be scary.
Letting go can take time. Or not. It can either be a balloon on a string, I open my hand and off it goes. Or, it can be a handful of sand, slowly slipping through my fingers as I watch the grains fall back to the beach to be washed out with the waves. It depends on what feels right for me at that time.
We may not be ready to let go of an incident. That's okay. We all move on our path at our own speed. We will let go when we are ready because letting go involves digging down deep to determine exactly what caused the unpleasantness in the first place. 'Why did I get so upset? Why did that hurt/disappoint/anger me so?' Oftentimes we then confront something in ourselves we don't like. After letting go of some of the anger over my divorce, I discovered I had allowed myself to be taken for granted during the relationship. And then I wondered if I had allowed that to happen in other relationships. Had that become a pattern of mine? I discovered it had and I learned it early.
My stepfather was a very opinionated hot-tempered man. I can recall him saying that his opinion was the only one of our family. What he believed, we all needed to believe. His opinion was the opinion of the household. Never mind that his opinions were bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic, get the picture? We were expected to hold the same views. So, how does a teenager, on the verge of forming his own identity, learn to express himself, without the fear of being knocked through the wall, especially when he believed exactly the opposite? I didn't. I never learned to express myself. So, therefore in my relationships I never learned to address the issues that bothered me, stuffing them into the closet of emotional clutter.
Should we let go of our past? I think not. Irish Statesman, Edmund Burke (1729-1797) said "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." It seems to me we should let go of the emotion and not the memory of the incident. After all, it is our history, and if we don't want to repeat the same mistakes over and over, we need to know our own emotional and relationship history and learn from it.
Now, I just need to practice what I preach.