Life isn’t all neat and tidy
Have you noticed how often the word “closure” is used these days? A policeman or woman might say, when being interviewed on TV about a case, that they want to find the perpetrator so the that the victims can have “closure”. A verdict, a funeral, a divorce, or any event that marks a significant setback in someone’s life, and he or she may be expected to find “closure”. It’s one of those words that seems to mean something, but doesn’t.
Where once it meant an act or process of closing, a device that closes or seals, or a procedure for ending a debate and taking a vote, the popular new definition of closure isn’t in my dictionary. The Daily Telegraph’s book of irritating phrases (a gift from my son, who knows how irritated I can get) says the word once described the fate of Midlands car factories and is now a state of mind.
The trouble is that people rarely achieve “closure” in that sense, and may feel cheated if they don’t. There’s no time limit on a sense of loss, it just changes, and nothing can fully compensate you for it. When it comes to losing people, the Humanist philosopher A C Grayling says, “We do not get over losses; we merely learn to live with them.” The experience of loss is something we share with almost everyone else who ever loved anyone; it’s part of being human, and accepting this is part of growing up, however old you are.
However, there are consolations, though not necessarily the sort that those who call for “closure” might appreciate. The fact that you enjoyed the love of someone you’ve lost can’t be taken away. The possibility that you are a better, wiser person than someone who hurt you in some way, might give you strength that in turn you can use to support others. The anger you felt at some act of violence might spur you to act for political or social change. The realisation that life is short and messy might encourage you to make better use of your time, by finding fulfilment through a new challenge. None of these things will blot out a loss, but they might help you to learn to live with it.