How to Move Forward When You Don’t Have Closure
The desire to have closure or resolution in any given situation is human nature.
We like to have things come full circle and we want explanations for things that we don’t understand. We can find it very difficult to move forward if we don’t have the type of closure we want.
This happens in many relationships especially after a break up. Most people are familiar with the term ‘ghosting’ — when somebody becomes silent and won’t respond to your messages. You may have a desire for closure and they have no desire to respond.
We want a new crush to text us back, we await a call after our job interview, we had an argument with someone and they’re not willing to make amends. All of these experiences can result in feeling a lack of closure.
We ask questions, we wonder, we ponder. We have thoughts that run through our brains about why we aren’t getting the response we desire so much. We create stories about why people aren’t responding in the way we hoped.
In doing these things, we can continue down a rabbit hole of unanswered questions and hurt feelings.
There is a way to cope and it is much healthier than spiralling downward.
I have learned a great deal about this recently as I have been in a situation where I haven’t been able to get closure.
I had a deep friendship with somebody for nearly a year and it went awry. We shared some amazing experiences together and I cared deeply about her. The relationship had elements to it that were complicated and unhealthy, and I knew I needed space for a while. Instead of discussing this with her I chose to just back away, thinking that it would better this way in order to avoid an argument or more hurt feelings.
At the time, I felt it was the right choice for both of us. A few months later, when I felt like I had gained some of my own health and clarity back, I reached out to her and apologized for ending things so suddenly, asking if we could work on having a healthy relationship.
We had always been able to work through things before and I thought it would be possible to do that again based on our history. Our relationship was so deep that I thought she would respond to my heartfelt apology.
I really wanted closure in the situation…even just to know that she still cared or that she forgave me. Instead, I was left to figure it out on my own.
It has been a month since I contacted her and I have been on the receiving end of ghosting/stonewalling/silent treatment. I don’t know her reasons for choosing this and at first, I let it hurt me.
I felt complete in my apology and the love I had shown to her, however I knew that if she wasn’t going to communicate with me, I needed to find a way to move past this on my own.
Sure, she may choose to reach out one day, but what could I do in the meantime to move forward with my life without her in it?!
In taking this route, I have learned how to find closure within myself instead of looking to someone else to give it to me.
The truth is I don’t have all the answers now and I will never have all the answers to the many questions I have. What I do know is that we often have situations in our lives that don’t meet our expectations and we have a choice as to how we react. So, what do we do when we dont have the answers we want and aren’t able to properly close the door?
This is what has worked for me and what you might try on your own journey of finding closure.
1. Write a Letter
Writing a letter that you don’t intent to send can ge a great way to get your thoughts and feelings out. You can say whatever you want because you won’t send it. It is simply so you can process and grieve.
I have a friend who is a grief counsellor and through my own situation she showed me an interesting process for writing a letter.
First write down all the things you forgive that person for (ex: I forgive you for not getting back to me”).
Second, write down anything you want to make amends for (ex: I apologize or making a choice that affected both of us and not giving you a say).
Third, write down anything that you wished you could’ve said or currently want to say (ex: I hope you still respect me and think of our good times fondly).
Those were some excerpts from my letter. You can write down as much in each category as you wish. In the letter you could include prayers, good thoughts, the fact that you are letting go, etc.
Three very important aspects to this are:
- End the letter with “Goodbye” and mean it (this means goodbye to that relationship as it was, not necessarily to reconciliation in the future where both parties are healthy and in a different head/heart-space.
- Read it out loud (either to yourself as if you were reading it to the person or to a trusted friend/confidant).
- Delete it or rip it up as soon as you are done reading it (this will prevent you from going back and reading it over and over).
Once it’s written and destroyed, you are better prepared to move forward. It still might be difficult at first, however this will give you a sense of freedom. Forgive, wish them the best and let go.
2. Take Your Control Back
In giving your power away to someone else you are saying, “I cannot move past this experience until YOU give me closure…”
What you actually want is an internal, emotional shift — you want to feel better!
We can’t expect the outside world to take care of our feelings — we get to take ownership over them ourselves.
For me, this included letting go of what my friend thinks of me, practicing self-validation, knowing that I am loved and worthy regardless of whether I have her in my life and not letting someone else’s feelings about me dictate how I feel about myself.
“What consumes your mind is what controls your life.” — Anonymous
Obviously this can be easier said than done, however starting the process of taking control over your own emotions will be very helpful.
3. Feel What You Feel Without Judgment
So many feelings come up when we are hurting or feeling rejected. We wonder what we did wrong, why they don’t care enough to reach back, whether they harbor resentment, whether we will find someone else that makes us feel the way they did, etc.
Feel what you feel and don’t judge yourself.
I went through days where I would cry for a while and journal. Then I would be okay for some time and cry again. I stopped judging myself and just let myself go through the motions and grieve what was lost.
I missed her and I cared so therefore I was hurting. I can make that mean whaetever I want and I made it mean that I am able to care deeply about people and that is a good quality.
I allowed myself to go through the tunnel of crap so I could get to the other side.
The Shawshank Redemption
I knew that covering it up wouldn’t result in authentic healing, so I went where I went emotionally and let that be okay.
4. Discuss it with a Few Close Friends
Having some good people in your life that will love and support you through the hard times is so important in the healing process.
If you don’t feel that you have close friends who can help you with this, you might choose to go to a counselor or mentor. They may be able to offer advice, a new perspective or just a shoulder to cry on.
I chose some great people in my life to share my sadness with. They loved me through it and checked up on me to see how I was doing. This encouraged me in knowing I had great people around me and I felt loved and understood.
I didn’t talk to them so that they would mediate and help find resolution — I talked to them so I could process everything.
A good conversation with a trusted confidant who truly wnats the best for you will be such a blessing when you are healing.
5. Plan Something Fun
Plan a night out with friends, a getaway or even a more elaborate vacation. You could also find an organization you can volunteer with and make some new friends.
To get out of the norm and see a different setting will help clear your mind of the person you’re missing.
I volunteer regularly at my church and that helped me take my mind off what wasn’t going well in my life. I also planned a getaway to New York (happening in August) and am in the process of planning a warm vacation over Christmas (I live in Canada and it’s cold here in December ;).
The excitement of planning and doing something fun will help take your mind off the person you’re missing and create new memories with other people in your life.
“When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead”. — Hemingway
6. Let Go of Unhealthy Patterns and Step into Health
There’s almost nothing worse than sitting around day after day mulling over things and not finding any resolution. We can get caught up thinking about what was said and done, what the conversation might sound like if the time ever comes, what we could’ve/should’ve done better, etc.
Ruminating over it for long periods of time will actually cause more pain and whatever you focus on grows bigger so if you let that person live rent-free in your brain, it will take longer to move forward.
If we did something that we would rather not repeat, it’s important to reflect and learn the lesson so we don’t make the same choices going forward.
I gave myself time to think about what was lost and how I acted, deciding that I might do things differently if the same type of situation presented itself in the future.
I would then pick myself up and do something that served me in my healing.
Choosing to do things that were healthy for me like volunteering, eating well, working out, getting proper sleep and spending time with close friends really assisted the healing process.
7. Follow Your Purpose
I believe that all of us have a purpose or mission in life. This truly fulfills us and when we are living in our purpose we feel good, things flow and we don’t get distracted as often.
When we know we are contributing to the world in a bigger way we are others-focused and it takes our thoughts off of ourselves.
I am grateful that my purpose lines up with my work. I love to teach children and also to write. I focused on my purpose and wrote a lot of articles so I could share some of my recent experiences with others, as well as diving into my teaching practice, finding new ways to reach students academically and emotionally.
Focusing on what I could give back in the areas I’m passionate about took me out of myopic thinking and helped me focus on other people. When I am living in my purpose I am fulfilled and getting closure doesn’t bother me nearly as much.
“Start embracing the life that is calling you. Find your calling. Know what sparks the light in you so you — in your own way — can illuminate the world”.
— Oprah Winfrey
8. Pray/Send Good Thoughts
When we choose resentment, we choose pain. When we choose not to forgive someone it ends up hurting us more than it hurts them.
Thinking positively about the person or praying for them changes your energy toward the situation and allows you to better let go.
Someone said that he imagines the person he is in conflict with coming over for a dinner party. He invites the person into his home, serves up a fantastic meal, has amazing conversation and shares a great night with them. I haven’t used this tactic, however I thought it was an interesting way to think well of the person so as not to harbor resentment.
Personally, I spent a lot of time in prayer, giving the relationship to God and asking for a resolution one day if the time was right. I prayed for her, her family, her life purpose and her health.
“Time spent in prayer is never wasted.” — Francis Fenelon
Each time it created space for me to feel positive and that was a healthy place to be. I thought it might make me miss her more, yet it actually helped me see that the relationship was worthwhile for many reasons and when we choose to love someone that deeply it is a beautiful thing.
9. Believe in Yourself
It can be easy to get down when we are experiencing silence from another person. We may blame ourselves, experience shame around our own actions contributing to the silence and feel guilty that we can’t make amends for our mistakes (or what we perceive to be mistakes).
Know what you deserve and realize that reaching out to someone and experiencing silence is actually passive-aggressive and it says more about the other person than it does about you.
Yes I made mistakes and didn’t go about things in the right way, however I didn’t do anything that terrible to warrant the silent treatment. An honest and to the point response would have been a great way to give closure to both people involved.
“Spiteful words can hurt your feelings, but silence breaks your heart.” — Mother Teresa
In experiencing this lack of communication, I realized that I deserve better and I get to move on and know that I am worth more.
If she reaches out at some point I can choose to share how I feel, but until then I choose not to keep reaching out to someone who won’t give me the time of day. I get to have more self-respect and know that I deserve people in my life who will communicate with me.
It is hard to let go of something without closure, however it is harder to hold on to a relationship that may be dead already. Set yourself free from uncertainties.
“Letting go gives us freedom and freedom is the only condition for happiness.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh
Letting go is so freeing. If that person is meant to be in your life, someday they will come back. If that relationship is not meant to continue, then something much better is on its way.
When you focus on moving forward, you will be in a better space to attract an even more fulfilling relationship.
You will be happier, more at peace and open to new possibilities. You will not be holding a grudge and closed off to opportunities that may present themselves.
You will have found internal healing and that will move you forward in amazing ways.
That is the only real way to get closure anyway. Even if that person were to communicate with you, they still may not say what you want to hear.
The only way to move forward is to choose to put yourself first, live a life that you love and let go of the things that don’t bring you joy.
You may never have closure, however you can have healing.