Sometimes you don’t get closure

If we were to believe television, we should expect to get closure for all the things that have come to end in our lives. I suppose, more specifically, those things that ended unexpectedly that have left us a bit dumbfounded. However, despite everything television tells us, I’m not too sure how important it is to get closure. Despite all of the popular culture talk about closure there is not much consensus on what that entails.

One of the longstanding, well-known social psychologists in my field Arie Kruglanski came up with the need for closure phrase to highlight our need as humans to lessen ambiguity. Many don’t like gray. Many, despite season-ending episodes, don’t like cliffhangers. We can see that with the proliferation of “spoilers” websites. As a collective we want closure.

Closure is supposed to give a path towards moving onwards. Closure can represent acceptance of what has ended and a mental push towards transition away from what’s ended to looking towards that which is to come.  That sounds great. That can be wonderful. It can help sew up a broken heart. It can help free up brain space.

While closure sounds wonderful, there is not always an opportunity to get closure. Sometimes closure eludes us. And sometimes closure is not all that it is promised to be. Loose ends don’t always get tied up. I recently tried to give someone closure by sending a friendly message. I got nothing in return other than a perfunctory, perfectly cordial response. They didn’t want closure. And, thus I didn’t get closure. Actually, I didn’t want closure. I just wanted to be nice. Or nice(ish). Yet, others may just not be ready to let you have peace of mind.

I’m ok with a lack of closure. More often than not I can move on. I can compartmentalize quite well. I’m very lucky that way. Considering how the world is in a tailspin at the moment, I can imagine we are in a state of being demanding information. We are in a high need for information. However, that information overload is tripping our mental health circuit breakers. Thus, we may have to allow ambiguity to seep into other areas of our lives. Need for closure is spinning on a seesaw. And, we may have to be ok with that.

7 replies »

  1. ‘Closure’ is often temporary. You think you’ve put it away but it suddenly catches you unawares when you are vulnerable. I agree with you – better to compartmentalise. Or see it as a finished chapter from which the characters/situations might make an appearance again in another chapter later in the book of your life.


  2. Closure is something we can provide ourselves.

    “Oh well. That’s how it is and nothing I can do about it. Life goes on.”

    Often, when people do not get closure it is because they really don’t want closure. They want it open so that they can retain the hope of making it different. Wanting something that isn’t going to happen is very painful but losing that impossible chance is perceived as even more painful.

    Or thinking that acceptance of a reality means they really didn’t care enough. Somehow we are supposed to be destroyed by a loss.

    Closure is like pulling the festering splinter so that healing can begin.


  3. I tried to “like” Fred’s comment because that’s basically how I feel about closure, too. It may be another “benefit of aging” that I can choose whether or not I even want to pursue closure of some open items or just accept them with another popular phrase that I first heard from a friend as she was going through cancer treatment. “It is what it is” and shall probably ever remain.


  4. I think closure is sometimes about deciding what’s in our power to change and accepting the things that are not. Sometimes I’d rather put an end to something myself than be left hanging and wondering. Sometimes I just push the question away and it resolves itself.I guess the biggest problem is that sometimes others don’t see the issue in the same way as we do. I guess we all have unanswered questions and loose ends, but some become less important with time.


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