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Letting Go - When You Can't Get Closure

It’s natural to seek a dialogue at the end of a relationship (or friendship) for a variety of reasons -- including to learn what you could have done to be a better partner/friend, understanding why the relationship failed, or for feedback on a certain aspect of the relationship. The hope is that closure will make both parties feel better by learning from their mistakes. In theory, good closure should help you let go and move on with your life.

Resolving a conflict is easy if both parties recognize each other’s perspectives. The acknowledgment of that understanding is a game-changer. Authentic apologies for sentiments spoken in anger and frustration flow effortlessly if each person feels heard and understood regarding why they feel the way they do. In fact, the actual resolution of the conflict seems less important when both parties feel listened to and have acquired new insight about one another.

Yet, closure requires the cooperation of two parties, and sometimes, one party is unwilling or unable to have this final dialogue. Sometimes the avoidant party believes that it feels too painful, and other times this approach is preferred rather than potentially further hurting the other person. But, what if your former partner denies you the closure you feel you need? Oftentimes, a lack of closure can feel like a major setback in the healing process. Accepting this truth -- rather than waiting or begging for closure -- is the first step in healing. In doing these things, we can continue down a rabbit hole of unanswered questions and hurt feelings.

Below are six ways you can start to move on without closure:

Recognize Limitations

Recognize the person’s character limitations and refrain from banging your head against the wall. Do not attempt to explain yourself any further because the other person will never get it.

Accept Powerlessness

Accept that you will not get closure. This is the power that the interpersonally impaired person wields. They refuse to resolve conflict productively, intentionally leaving the other party feeling uneasy about it for weeks. 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 need to take ownership over them ourselves.

Shift Your Attention

Distance yourself from this person. Do not sever the relationship, but rather keep the correspondence light and fluffy. Rather than ruminate on what you can’t control, shift your attention to things within your control. If you’ve always wanted to learn to ski, play piano, or recite poetry, now is the time to fully immerse yourself in a new hobby. With more time on your hands, it’s the perfect time to join a meet-up group, or buy a stack of books on an interest you’ve been drawn to. Not only will filling your time help prevent destructive rebound choices, but you’ll meet new friends and feel better about yourself when you are learning and growing.

Invest in Your Own Life

Invest in your own life. Continue moving forward. 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. 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.

Write a Letter

This age-old remedy for all sorts of relationship problems works here too. Pull up a blank computer screen or grab a piece of paper - journals can also be particularly useful for this exercise - and begin downloading your unedited thoughts. Oftentimes, these letters are tempting to send, but it usually makes no difference to the healing process to send them or not send them. Some ideas for what to write about:

The things you forgive that person for

Anything you want to make amends for

Anything that you wished you could’ve said or currently want to say

Frustrations you felt in the relationship

It might help to 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. It can be therapeutic to read it out loud (either to yourself as if you were reading it to the person or to a trusted friend/confidant). If you choose not to send the letter, consider deleting it or ripping 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.

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. Allow yourself to feel what you feel and don’t judge yourself.

“What consumes your mind is what controls your life.” — Anonymous

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. 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. You may never have closure, however you can have healing.


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