If anyone ever figured out how to bottle the ability to achieve closure after a relationship ends, they would be rich and famous. As someone who has stumbled in finding closure a few times in my life, all I can say for sure is how it feels. It feels peaceful; it feels freeing, like taking a rock out of your shoe. It is the moment a chapter in the book of your life has been written, read, reread, and filed away for posterity. No matter what the situation, closure is a feeling that comes from within. Sometimes you have the other person there to debrief with and that can be helpful, like when I met up with an ex-boyfriend to compare notes on our relationship. It was an incredibly therapeutic experience that helped me close the door on the relationship once and for all. But let’s be honest, it hardly ever happens like that … Most of the time, we are struggling alone. Whether it’s because the other person(s) is dead, unavailable, toxic, crazy, or just an ass who we’ve decided doesn’t deserve to be in our life anymore, it’s not always possible to involve them in the closure process. So if we can’t have their input/thoughts/feelings/apologies, but we still need closure, how to proceed? Here are some tips for getting closure when you have to go at it alone. Share your suggestions in the comments.
- The un-sent letter. I dated a guy who suddenly stopped talking to me without any rhyme, reason, or warning. I later realized this was because he was an addict, but at the time, it was devastating. I knew I could and never would speak to him again. But I still had so much pain and anger pent up inside. I sat down at my desk and proceeded to write an epic letter telling him exactly what I thought of him. I wrote until there were no more words. Then I folded that sucker up, put it in an envelope, and locked it away in a drawer. It helped me let go just a little bit.
- Write it. Write a book about the demise of your relationship, sell it for a six-figure advance, and then have it turned into a show on HBO starring someone exceedingly attractive. But seriously, even if you’re not a professional writer, write it anyway. A play, screenplay, short story, or poem can help you gain perspective on a situation, or even give you an opportunity to write a different ending. It’s OK if you’re the only one who ever reads it. It’s worth it.
- Weird-ass rituals. As a person who considers myself “spiritually eclectic” (I’ll explain some other time), I love performing weird-ass rituals that mean something only to me. I highly recommend printing out all the emails that the person ever sent you, lighting them on fire, and burying the ashes under your favorite tree. Or make up your own random ritual that is simpatico with your religious or spiritual beliefs. The point is to try to lay the past to rest.
- Art. Art! Art! Art! Paint it, collage it, photograph it. Make art about it. I have an entire sketchbook of awful collages and watercolor paintings that got me through college. No one will EVER see them, but I don’t care. If you are gifted in this way, I’m jealous!
- Reflection. Ruminate on both the good and the bad of the relationship, so that you don’t: A) totally idealize it or B) reactively hate the person. The more clarity you have on a situation, the easier it will be to sort out your feelings and gain insight about the situation. This may even be helpful to do with a counselor or therapist or a good friend. If you’re a list person, a good old-fashioned pro-and-con should do the trick. Every time I break up with a dude or a friend, I write a list of all of the things I didn’t like about them and all of the things I learned about myself. Then I can refer to it in the future if need be.
- Reclaiming. Take the memories back! That Italian restaurant you both loved, your favorite dive bar or music venue, the bench you sat on to watch the sunset — do all the things you loved doing together on your own. Make new memories dammit … alone!
- Change of scenery. Sometimes the best way to get a fresh perspective on a life situation is to get away for a while. Go on a retreat/vacation, move to a new neighborhood, or just redecorate. Get out of your bubble. When your environment changes so does your state of mind. New states of mind are conducive to change.
- Forgiveness. This is so easy to say and so hard to do. Closure requires forgiveness either of yourself or others. Forgiveness takes time. And time is really the only way to heal from a major loss in your life. Unfortunately, time is something we have no control over. Yeah, that kind of sucks, but be patient with and kind to yourself. You never know when forgiveness will happen or exactly how long it will take, but sometimes you just wake up one day and that stupid rock has miraculously fallen out of your shoe. You may not know why or how, but it did. That is the moment that you’re ready to walk on. Only more comfortably.