Grief moves within each one of us. Whether it is profoundly acute or subtle, grief is not a discrete thing, just by itself . . . out there somewhere. It lives and unfolds within each part of us as we travel on through our daily lives. This understanding has lead me over many years to wonder . . . really, is there such a thing as closure, an actual ending to grief for someone or something beloved?
I was sitting across the table from a new friend. We were talking about a possible collaboration where I would be developing a writing project she had in mind. She talked, I listened; we touched on tough concepts, like closure, and soon I knew I wanted to help her bring life to her best hopes. You see, we have a lot in common; we’ve both suffered the sudden death of a son. Neither of us had time to say good bye.
February was a tough month and I questioned diving into another grief-inspired project. But, I felt my son’s energy come alive as my friend talked, and somehow knew this collaboration could bring a positive change within me. Matt’s whispers were clear: Mom, slow down; there’s more to understand, to learn.
The next few days as I read and organized my collaborator’s notes, I was drawn to a book about responding mindfully to grief – being present to, and aware of the ways grief lives and moves within. In this book, “Grieving Mindfully”, author Sameet Kumar has a section on sudden loss and closure.
“Finding closure . . . means feeling as though you had a chance to say good-bye,
even if this was not actually possible.”
Had Matt passed from life gradually, when an intentional good-bye had a chance of happening, I might have looked at closure differently, but he didn’t. My chance at closure was as he lay in a coffin, before the fire. Is a gentler kind of closure, a good bye, really available?
Kumar includes “the “five things”, from the work of Dr. Ira Byock, a pioneer in the American hospice movement, who calls them vital topics that need to be covered in order to facilitate closure for a loss . . . whether that loss is over time or after an unexpected event.
There they were. Five statements that begged for honesty . . . conversations I might have shared in person, with Matt, had I the chance.
I tried it. It was the middle of the night and I couldn’t sleep. I talked through each statement, aloud, telling Matt what’s long been in my heart, as if he were alive and by my side.
Below are those five statements for you to consider. . . and a piece from my first conversation.
1) I’M SORRY – my beautiful boy, I regret I wasn’t able to hold your hand when you lay alone that night; I apologize for allowing your disease to separate us; I’m sorry my own vulnerability sometimes kept me from being the mom you deserved.
2) I FORGIVE YOU – Not forgetting, but giving compassionate forgiveness to yourself and another
3) I LOVE YOU – acknowledging that it is love for another, for a relationship, that triggers the grief of loss
4) THANK YOU –appreciating the gifts of another whose love deeply enriched your life
5) GOOD-BYE – sharing from a full heart a farewell to an earth-bound relationship
Closure? I’m still wrapping my heart around an answer. For now, I’ll call it the gentle turning of the page on the story of a beloved relationship, to focus on the next page . . . one beyond the mortal, but into the sacred where closure doesn’t apply.
Thank you for your grace,