What does closure after loss mean and feel like? And how does closure come after we discover harsh truths about the person who has past? – A community story
Read Time: 5 Mins
Trigger warning: This community story talks through a personal experience that could be emotionally distressing. It includes themes of cancer, abuse and self harm.
Even from a young age, loss and mourning has had a profound impact on my life. The earliest memory of loss I have is from when I was around seven years old and my mum had our dog put down, while I was away at summer camp. I know why she did it, but the fact that she did it without letting me say goodbye hurt a lot. Not being able to say goodbye, not getting closure hurt me more than the actual sense of loss. This emotional numbness has stayed with me throughout my life – I have yet to experience closure before loss happening.
Closure following loss
The first time I lost a close family, I was fourteen years old. I remember my mum waking me up in the morning and telling me that my step-mum (my dad’s wife of thirteen years) had passed in her sleep. I was distraught.
It felt as though, once again, I didn’t get to say good-bye. The pain of her loss has faded over time as I move forward, but my step-mum was someone greatly important to me. We never fought – I only have good memories of her and though I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye in person, she is not someone I feel I have unfinished business with. She knew I loved her and I know she loves me. The ache in my heart faded and now I just get flashes of her when I dream of her sometimes.
In my dreams I can do magic, I can fly, but when it comes to the loss of a loved one, it is always indisputable. If I see someone in my dreams and they’re no longer here, I cannot fool myself into believing they’re alive again. It’s a bittersweet moment of having time with loved ones but knowing that it will come to an end as soon as I wake up.
I can talk to my step mum and dad in my dreams.
The passing of my father
When my step-mum passed away, I was distraught. When my dad passed, I was numb. I remember exactly the moment I found. I remember my mum telling me, I remember myself saying “okay” and I remember going back to practicing the piano. It was the day after I had visited him at the hospital for the last time.
My father had lung cancer even after he had stopped smoking for a long time but as our options ran out, he began smoking almost as much as before he was diagnosed. That hospital visit was the last time I saw him. I went to visit him with my mum and my niece, unable to say anything the entire time. I remember so clearly that when I tried to touch him, he flinched away from me. For me, that’s the last memory I have of my father, him flinching away from my hand. From that moment on, I was completely numb to his death for months.
Up until the point I wasn’t.
I had an outburst at school. I had been shaking all the way through my physics class, excusing myself, going to the bathroom and punching a wall because I hoped it would… I have no idea what I hoped for. I didn’t break skin, I didn’t break the tiles, nothing so dramatic. My numbness finally broke and it was replaced with anger. I know now that this is the second stage of grief, the anger and frustration stage.
I was angry because my dad kept on smoking and through this action it felt like he had stopped fighting. In the choice between his children and cigarettes, he chose the cigarettes. I kept thinking that he didn’t love me enough to try to stay and he left me with my siblings, fighting over his money. I was overwhelmed with questions that could not be answered.
As this emotional weight got heavier, I stopped myself from doing something irreversible. I knew what I was feeling was incorrect. Not wrong, I WAS feeling it after all, but it was factually inaccurate. What I saw, what I experienced, wasn’t necessarily the truth. So, I got help and I worked through my last year of high school.
Though additional help aided my management of negative feelings, the hatred I felt towards my dad grew each day. It grew because I later found out that he had been terrible to my mum. I found out he had lied to me about past events and after reading some of our old email exchanges I discovered that he had been emotionally abusive towards me. I was simply too young to recognise or realise it at the time. A lot of my social anxiety and my inability to stand up for myself stems from the way he treated me and I hated him for it. It felt as though he left me with all of these issues and wasn’t there to make amends, closure didn’t happen once again for me.
he wasn’t there to give it to me so I gave it to myself.
This was a few years back and my feelings towards him and closure have changed. I don’t hate my dad anymore. Not because I think he didn’t do those things. Not because I think that I was wrong. I don’t hate him because I needed closure and he wasn’t there to give it to me so I gave it to myself. Both with my dog and my step-mum I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. With my dad I had the chance but I didn’t take it. I could have walked up during his funeral could have said goodbye then and there. But closure, to me, was never about saying goodbye. It wasn’t about resolution either. All this can’t be resolved by him as he isn’t here to speak for himself. I will forever again hear only one side of any story concerning him. And me hating him for all those things I hated him for was harmful. It suppressed all the good things, all the things in between. It consumed me. So closure, to me, is about letting go of the anger, the hatred, and just facing the cold hard fact that my dad is gone. And that now I have to move on with my life, knowing that closure isn’t just about a goodbye, it’s about letting go of negative emotions and moving forward with my life.
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