How to get closure

How to get closure after a break up

by Eharmony Editorial Team - March 20, 2018

Wondering how to get closure after a break up? Natalie Lue explains what closure is and why pursuing it with an ex might not be the best thing to do

When we experience a break up, it often leaves us with what can feel like a lot of unanswered questions. But the loss itself brings up old wounds. It’s in remembering these past losses, whether consciously or unconsciously, that we vacillate through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). When we remain the final stage, we know that we are truly open to a new relationship because we have a sense of closure.

But what is closure and why do we find it tricky?

Closure is that sense of having reached emotional and mental resolution about something that’s been a source of pain. This resolution means ending the quest for answers, more time, another chance, or them spontaneously combusting into someone different. It’s accepting what we know, wholly and fully, so that we can choose – and keep re-choosing – to let go. It allows us to grieve. In doing so, we forgive ourselves and move forward with more awareness.

Loss brings pain, confusion, anger, resentment and more. How we respond to it, both in terms of how we treat and regard ourselves as well as what we do, has a significant bearing on how grief will unfold in the ensuing days, weeks and months.

We need closure because loss represents disappointment. We invest our hopes and expectations in every relationship, even those that didn’t get off the ground. When these aren’t met, the loss might represent our deeper hopes for ourselves as well as our fears. The pain is accentuated by feeling that we’ve somehow disappointed the other person or that what’s happened isn’t fair because we’ve done ‘all the things’ we believe we should to get our desired outcome. These forms of self-rejection knock our confidence and lead us to ruminate on everything that’s happened, locking us in a cycle of blame and shame that makes it difficult to move forward.

How to get closure

As humans, we like to be in control. We want to know when we’re going to be ‘over it’. And if we think we can find a shortcut that’ll allow us to bury painful feelings and skip over the ‘hard work’, we’ll try it. Next thing, we’re rebounding with someone new, going back to an ex, or anaesthetising our feelings in ways that only serve to extend our pain.

While it’s not wise to wallow for months, or even years, trying to force ourselves to be over something can be just as damaging. It’s impatience and a lack of tolerance and compassion. In ignoring our inner voice and our needs, we’re creating more problems. Some say, ‘Time is a healer,’ and while that’s true to an extent, it’s what we do with the time that counts. Time spent obsessing, telling untrue stories that corroborate negative beliefs, and avoiding our feelings, extends our healing time. If we stop clock-watching and focus on self-care, we still hurt but we also process because we’re not white-knuckling our past.

Wait for it

Sometimes we wait for our magic moment. Our future, our inner peace, becomes contingent on our questions being answered. We want him/her to fess up, apologise, take the blame, or admit that they’ve made a grave mistake and grovel for our forgiveness. As a result, we ignore our intuition (our inner wisdom) and use self-doubt to ignore reading the situation.

That’s not to say that these conversations can’t be useful, but we need to consider that:

1) the other person might not feel inclined to provide closure

2) that even if they are, we might end up with more questions than answers (especially if they’re shady and prone to gaslighting)

3) that it won’t mean much if we’re just going to find another reason to beat ourselves up

We were also there too, and we often know what we need to do – we’re just afraid to admit it.

There are times when we have to learn to be okay with not having all the answers. We could even get closure from unexpected sources. If we trust that we’re not a master puppeteer then, in the future, when we’re in situations that reflect something from a past relationship, we can recognise the opportunity to correct old misunderstandings and see what we couldn’t see before. That, my dear, is closure.

Natalie Lue teaches people who are are tired of emotional unavailability, toxic relationships, and feeling ‘not good enough’, how to reduce their emotional baggage so that they can reclaim themselves and make space for better relationships and opportunities. Read more by Natalie at Baggage Reclaim