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 this 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 Malaysian Airlines plane that was struck down in Ukraine. When the remains of some of the victims arrived in the Netherlands he said perhaps this will give closure. It made me think – what gives a grieving person closure and how much time does it take. Admittedly, I think about healing more so than closure in relationship to my daughter’s death but since this word is often tossed around it got me thinking. The dictionary describes closure as a feeling that an emotional or traumatic experience has been resolved. Losing a significant loved one is indeed emotional. And depending on your relationship with that person and how they died – as one grief counselor told me – can for some people cause symptoms very much like post traumatic stress disorder. One of my co-workers told me that for her closure is like ending a chapter in a book. You can now move on to the next pages. But it’s okay to go back and look at the previous chapter. I like her definition but how do you get there?
I was touched by the words of one of our station interns. Melissa told me when she was twelve her sister was murdered. I think we can agree something like that is especially traumatic for a young child. For years Melissa carried the pain, anger, confusion and sorrow like an open wound. She found very little comfort until an entire decade later when she finally gave up and as she described “put it in God’s hands.” Up until then it seemed knowing was her worst enemy. Knowing her sister’s killer and how and why the killing happened did little to provide comfort or closure. And the words – she’s in a better place now – didn’t help either. Finally she exhausted herself from carrying the mental weight of knowing. In her mind she transferred that burden on to the person she believed caused her sister’s death. She told me he will have to live with knowing and suffer through it – because she could suffer no more. And just like that she had closure. Interestingly, it took about as many years as she knew her sister in life to get there.
I suppose one could argue that closure comes once you’re exhausted from carrying the emotional weight or burden. Maybe it comes when you realize there’s nothing more you can do. That’s when you’re able to finish the chapter and move on to the next. If you’re a religious person I suppose it’s called putting it in God’s hands. As for how long it takes – perhaps as long and you and your loved one were connected in life.
For me – I’m still not concerned about finding closure. I don’t feel I need it – but I am curious about it. It’s been three and a half years and there are still triggers that take me back to that painful night I watched my daughter die. I think about so many things and often feel sad she’s not with me. Time has done little to heal that.
But it has helped.
My daughter entered my life when I was a teenager so I’m left with nearly a lifetime of memories. It makes me wonder if it will take a lifetime to heal. Image that – a lifetime. And I’m okay with that. It’s something I feel I can live with. Maybe that’s what you call closure.