By Deborah J
Like most corporate gigs, breakups have an exit interview too. We call it closure. When a relationship comes to an end, like an exit interview, we get a platform on which to evaluate our overall experience and at the end of it, all we want is to move on in good mental health. What I discovered through personal experience and the experiences of those around me is the door doesn’t close until you understand why shutting it was necessary.
Closure isn’t only for romantic relationships. Closure, by definition, is a satisfying sense of finality. If you have endured any season, whether there was physical, emotional or spiritual abuse, a season of being devalued or even a season of under-performance, when those seasons are over we want a satisfying sense of finality. When it comes to pain and the people who have caused us to feel it, it’s normal to want them to make it right, to heal us. We want the apology. We want to know they are contrite; we want to feel their remorse. But before you go looking for that apology, there are some things to consider, namely, can you handle the truth?
Say you meet with the lover who left you and when you ask why, he or she responds, “I just didn’t like you as a person.” Then they start to list all the things they didn’t like about you. How would you feel? Could you handle their truth? Do you want their honest answer or an answer that makes you feel better? We may say, “Tell me the truth, no matter how much it hurts,” but do we really mean that? I don’t ask that question to make you afraid of someone’s truth but rather to help you think about whether you’re truly prepared to hear what you’re demanding to know.
And let’s say you get your apology. The person who abused or abandoned you gave the apology you longed for, but you’re still angry and hurt. You thought with an apology you would be able to forgive them and move on, but you still can’t. Now you want there to be consequences for their actions. You think the consequences will make you feel better. Let’s say karma fights your war but you’re still not happy. What does that mean for you? How do you define closure? If, by chance, your idea of closure means someone else gives it to you, you may be doing yourself a disservice.
We should never give anyone total control over our emotional wellbeing. While someone may be responsible for our hurt, we can’t make them responsible for our healing. The reality is you could wait a lifetime for this to happen. Are you really going to put your life your and happiness on hold waiting for someone to say “I’m sorry” or to finally pay for what they did to you? I remember telling myself and others for years that I forgave my abuser and had moved on. Physically, I moved on but emotionally I was stuck replaying the relationship on a loop. Deep down, I wanted him to pay for my hurt and I didn’t care how that retribution came to him. The longer it took, the more upset I became. I allowed this human to control my emotions even though we were no longer together. When we allow someone else’s wrongdoing to control our emotions, we give them power over us.
The hardest part about giving yourself closure is getting over the feeling that you’re giving people a free pass to violate you. Closure seems to send the message that a person is not responsible for the hurt they’ve brought upon us and that we must take full responsibility for the decisions someone else made that negatively impact our lives. Learning the difference between closure and blame can be extremely hard to do without proper guidance. Therapy helped me learn how to shut the door on a relationship or season. My therapist didn’t make me feel ashamed for wanting someone else to pay for my hurt. However, she helped me understand only I hold the power to put myself back together. While that seemed a bit scary, it was empowering. That lesson taught me that I’m more powerful than my hurt and I have the power to erase it. Here are some other tools that have changed my perspective on closure:
Write: Write a letter to the person(s) who hurt you without expecting a response. This helps you get out all of those emotions that may be difficult to vocalize.
Forgive yourself: Forgive yourself for trusting someone who hurt you. Forgive yourself for carrying guilt and shame for something that happened to you as a child. You were innocent. Accept that fact.
Forgive your offender: Forgiving your offender(s) doesn’t excuse what they did. It means you are releasing them and no longer give them control over your mind, body and spirit. You are releasing hurt that no longer serves you.
Focus on the present: Don’t keep reliving the past. When you focus on the here and now you won’t have space to think about what was.
Change the narrative: The stories you tell yourself matter. Instead of focusing on the struggle, show the beauty in the lessons learned. This makes a difference in how you think and feel about who you are. Yesterday you shared your story as the victim. Today share it as the victor. You have the power to heal yourself. That is a power that no one can give or take from you. The gifts of peace and closure are inside of you. Search within. You’ll be amazed at the possibilities.