What if there is no Such Thing as Closure?

The New York Times · by Meg Bernhard · December 15, 2021

The basis of this blog is on a New York Times article by writer Meg Bernhard, and a correspondence between myself and my dear friend. My friend is referring to the death of my wife, Pat. We were married for fifty years, and friends assured me that I would heal with time. But, on the contrary, I continue to feel a deep sense of loss. I have a lasting sense of loss of my beloved wife. Then I came across a New York Times article, “What if there is no such thing as closure?”

The basis of this article is on Social Scientist Pauline Boss and her book, “Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live With Unresolved Grief.”

Pauline Boss from the New York Times Article:

” Boss studied and provided therapy to the family members of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as the relatives of people whose bodies were not recovered after natural disasters or in the collapse of the original World Trade Center on 9/11. Theirs were losses without “conclusion,” in the traditional sense of the term, the experience of paradox — a simultaneous absence and presence — that eluded resolution. Can you mourn someone whose body is present, even if the mind isn’t? Or whose death is unconfirmed? Can you grieve a foreclosed future?”

“The concept, Boss maintains, is inclusive, encompassing a range of moderate to severe losses that we might not perceive as such. Moreover, it can take many forms, often quotidian: an alcoholic parent who, when intoxicated, becomes a different person; a divorced partner, with whom your relationship is ruptured but not erased; a loved one with whom you’ve lost contact through immigration; or a child you’ve given up for adoption. “

These experiences are an accumulation of heartbreaks that we cannot always recognize.”

A dialogue between my friend and me:

“Pat died. You lost her as a companion. You lost her as someone who shored you up.You lost your marriage, your married way of life. Your entire way of life changed, and continues to change in various ways, and each change is an ambiguous loss.”

“And, what I get from the article, is that it’s that way for all of us. What did I lose when Joan(his estranged wife) moved to Oklahoma? My life changed irreparably. What have you and I each lost (and each other person on the planet) with the pandemic that will never return as it was before? What have I lost since developing chronic arthritis pain impacting walking? Lost with Laura’s(his daughter) horrible illness and surgery, though gratefully, seeming to be moving towards a full recovery, but scarred by the ordeal?”

“When I was 11, we moved from the house and neighborhood I’d known since birth. I cried for a year. What did you lose when you moved in with your grandparents?”

“We’re “adapting” to loss all of our lives.”