I saw an interview with Kenny Specht of the NYC Firefighter Brotherhood Foundation discussing the word closure with Anderson Cooper of CNN who had indicated dislike of the use of that word.
I too struggled and winced at the use of the word closure until I had an epiphany while reading a piece in the Wall Street Journal published after the death of Osama Bin Laden. Suddenly I realized the intention behind the word. It made perfect sense to me and this new understanding took the sting out of the word.
When there is a flesh wound there is a gaping tear or hole. In order for the body to heal correctly, the wound first needs to be closed, such as with stitches, a bandage or tourniquet. Once that closure is made, then the inside healing of the wound can truly begin by the body’s amazing capacity to repair itself.
So my understanding of closure, as it relates to the death of Bin Laden, is that the pronouncement of the death of Bin Laden is the metaphorical ‘closure’ of the gaping hole and tear his violence created. And now with that certainty of his death, a deeper inside healing and the next phase of the grief process can proceed.
I am able to see this also in terms of when a child or person goes missing and the parents and loved ones cannot have a moment’s relief living under the uncertainty of whether or not their loved one is dead or alive. So the ‘closure’ that is represented in the tragic announcement or news of the child or person’s death, is marking an opportunity for the surviving loved ones to begin to enter the next phases of the grief process and for them to have some bit — however tiny it may be — of healing.
My new understanding/insight of the word closure removes for me any unintended insensitivity that someone is or might be implying closure as “getting over” or “moving on” from the loss — as those of us who have lost a loved one knows that is just a ridiculous notion.
Ideally I would prefer the word closure was no longer used in relationship to loss, but since it is not going away I am just grateful I had my own healing epiphany.
Giselle M. Massi © 5/5/2011