If time heals all wounds then how much time does it take? I find myself thinking about this often because I still spend a lot of time thinking about my daughter who died from colon cancer.
As I ponder the question I am faced with yet another.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper used the word “closure” to describe what it must have felt like for families of the victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane that was struck down in Ukraine. When some of the victim’s remains finally arrived in the Netherlands he said perhaps families will get closure. It made me think – what gives a grieving person closure and how much time does it take? Admittedly, I don’t often think about closure in relationship to my daughter’s death but since this word is tossed around so much it got me thinking. The dictionary describes it as a feeling that an emotional or traumatic experience has been resolved. Losing a significant love one is emotional for sure. And depending on your relationship with the person and how they died – as one grief counselor said – can for some of us cause post traumatic stress disorder. My co-worker, Shealyn told me for her closure is like ending a chapter in a book. You can move on to the next pages but you can always go back and re-read the previous chapter. I like her definition but how do you get there?
I was touched by the words of another colleague. Melissa’s sister was murdered when Melissa was 12 years old. Something that I’m sure is especially traumatic for a young child. For years she carried pain, anger and sorrow like an open wound. She found very little comfort until an entire decade later when she finally gave up and as she explained “put it in God’s hands”. Knowing her sister’s killer and the details of the crime – in other words – knowing what happened and why – didn’t help very much. Plus, the person she and her family say was responsible for the death was never convicted. So through the years she lived with the mental weight of “knowing”. Knowing pretty much everything. But finally she says through prayer and a lot of time she released the burden she’s carried all these years. She did it by placing that burden of “knowing” on the person she believes is responsible. As she told me – he will have to live with it – not her. And just like that – she had closure. It took about the same number of years to get closure that she and her sister were connected in life.
I suppose one could argue that closure comes once you’re exhausted from carrying the emotional weight. Maybe it comes when you realize there’s nothing more you can do or could have done. At that point you’re able to finish one chapter and move on to the next pages. If you’re a religious person I supposed that’s called putting it in God’s hands. As for how long it takes to get there – perhaps about as long as you and your loved one were connected in life.
My co-workers and I spent some time talking about this and it made for thought provoking conversation. Quite frankly, I’m not so concerned about finding closure – but indeed curious. It’s been more than three years and there are still triggers that take me right back to that painful night my daughter died. Other triggers that remind me how badly she suffered through her illness. Then I’m reminded how she was so full of life and wanted to live. I think about the pain – the mother-daughter laughs, arguments and conversations. I sometimes think maybe there was something more I could have done to keep her here longer. I think about all of it. And I selfishly think how life dealt her an unfair hand.. Time has done little to heal all that.
But it has helped.
Considering my daughter entered my life when by all accounts I was a child myself leaves me with a lifetime of memories. I am left to wonder if it will take a lifetime to heal. Image that – a whole lifetime.
And I’m okay with that. Maybe that’s what you call closure.