Nothing stays the same forever. If we don’t close off old chapters in our life, we can’t give new ones our full attention. Sometimes we outgrow a job, relationship or hobby, other times we may be the ones left behind. But either way, obtaining closure is important in order to move forward to a new chapter.
It can be difficult to let go of something or someone that was once important. It is not a simple case of something coming to an end and being able to walk away unmoved. But how do we make sense of endings? How do we compartmentalize an old era? How do we make sure we don’t dwell on a time gone by?
Learning how to close a chapter in your life is imperative to living a full and happy life. In this article, I will discuss 5 ways to help you achieve this.
The benefits of closure
We automatically think of a romantic relationship when we talk of closure. But there are many situations that benefit from closure. This includes:
- Drifting from a close friend.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. We may benefit from closure from anything that leaves us with a sense of ambiguity and confusion.
The term “The need for closure” was penned in 1996 by Kruglanski and Webster in this article. They describe the need for cognitive closure as an “individuals’ desire for a firm answer to a question and an aversion towards ambiguity.”
Put very simply, closure is required to help us find answers to confusing and often painful circumstances. It brings us an understanding of a situation, which can then lead to peace and acceptance.
Think of the family of a murdered loved one. They often find their closure through court proceedings and an appropriate prison sentence. After this, closure may be obtained through practicing forgiveness towards the perpetrator.
Not everyone seeks closure
As outlined in this article, human beings are extremely averse to uncertainty. This drives our need for closure.
We feel compelled to know why someone is ghosting us. We have a strong desire to know why we are sacked from a job. And as for bereavement, we all have our own rituals in order to obtain closure.
For instance, when my late K9 soul mate passed away, I buried a memory jar in her honor. This brought me immense relief from the pain of her loss.
Interestingly, our individual differences dictate our desire for closure.
Those of us who seek order and structure and feel most comfortable with routine and predictability fall into the category of having the greatest need for closure. Whereas the more creative minds and spontaneous souls are most comfortable with going with the flow and don’t always need closure.
On the extreme side, there is also a category of individuals who actively evade closure. This is to avoid criticism and blame. This category sounds like they are living life in denial if you ask me.
5 ways to close a chapter in your life
Have you been left feeling a bit dazed and confused by something ending? Have you experienced those incessant internal questions of “why”? If so, you may also recognize the detrimental impact this has on your wellbeing.
Each time I find myself in the no man's land of needing closure, I experience an emotional lull. I feel flat and lack motivation. Perhaps most significant is the sense my self-esteem is spiraling down.
So now you know what closure is and why it is beneficial, let’s look at how you can achieve it.
1. Find out why a chapter is closing
You have the right to ask questions, such as why someone wants to end their relationship with you, or why you are being passed over for promotion.
In fact, if you don’t seek answers, your questions will be unresolved in your mind. This can lead to rumination and the creation of unhealthy stories.
If others are amenable to it, it is always useful to find answers. Find out the facts of a situation and recognize and accept your own contribution to the situation.
This will help you make sense of the circumstances.
2. Take back control
For years I struggled with the deterioration of a friendship. This wasn’t any old friendship. This was one of my best friends. But over time we have drifted.
It took me time to realize I was driving the relationship. I listened to my heart and recognized I did not feel seen or valued in this farce of a friendship anymore. In fact, we were no longer genuine friends.
But it was confusing as we weren’t “not” friends. In my view, our deterioration had gone beyond repair.
I wanted out. Truthfully, I have wanted out for a long time, but I was worried about hurting her feelings.
I could have allowed the drifting to continue until we didn’t even acknowledge each other’s birthdays. But I needed closure.
I took back control, by leaving a compassionate voice message saying I was thinking of her. I acknowledged we weren’t in each other’s lives anymore and highlighted what lovely memories we had together.
In this message, I thanked her for her friendship and wished her all the best for the future. I took control and instead of being in an uncertain friendship, I ended the friendship once and for all. No more expectations and letdowns. This message was my closure.
If you need more examples, here are 5 tips to let go of a friend.
3. Embrace grief
We experience a grieving period at the loss of something important to us. Grief is not only experienced with the death of a loved one.
When we allow ourselves time to grieve, we help facilitate our closure. We can help claim closure by sitting with our emotions. We may journey haphazardly through the different stages of grief (which aren’t always as sequential as once believed). But ultimately nobody grieves in the same way. Recognize when you are grieving and be kind to yourself.
In the case of the death of a loved one, it is important to find closure for the immediate pain and suffering of this loss. Yet this is one chapter you may never close, nor want to close. Nor should you feel pressured to “get over” the crippling devastation of a bereavement.
In these circumstances, closure may simply be found in easing your own suffering. Instead, we can work towards finding a healthy way to remember and honor our late loved ones.
4. Remember the good times
It’s important not to close a chapter with bitterness and resentment. It may well be that a situation or relationship has come crashing to an ugly end. But if you are honest with yourself you will likely remember many good times.
Take some time to reflect on the happy memories. Return to old feelings and recall your love. Embrace a new beginning with compassion for a past chapter. Not only will you find this empowering, but this loving-kindness approach will lead to greater wellbeing.
5. Tie up all loose ends
Depending on what chapter you are closing, tying up loose ends can look like a number of different things.
- Delete posts and images from social media.
- Return property or discard it.
- Change names.
- Untangle any joint accounts or memberships.
- Cancel insurance and update personal information.
- Update your CV.
- Cancel social arrangements.
When we move on with our lives, it can be unhelpful to be surrounded by constant reminders of a past chapter.
This article speaks of the benefits of a ritual when seeking closure. For instance, you may find optimism through a fire ceremony. This involves burning old photos and memorabilia. This is a symbolic and powerful way to close a chapter.
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Life is forever ebbing and flowing. We change, adapt, and grow. Nothing stays the same forever. I understand uncertainty can be daunting and confusing, but when we seek closure and move on from our old chapters, we are truly progressing through our life.
Do you have another tip that might help someone close a chapter in their life and move on? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!