When I read these three words they felt right. I read them in “An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir” by Elizabeth McCracken. The book, a powerful and poignant portrayal of grief, reveals truth about tragic loss. Elizabeth and her husband lost their first child at birth. Pudding never saw the light of day. The days, months and years that followed helped them discover that they are never the same.
When the ashes had been scattered in the North Sea off the coast of England, the two grieving parents were driving back to their home. The spotted a valley filled with deer, hundreds of them, does, fawns, stags. They had never seen such a sight and were deeply moved. Elizabeth wonders if the reader thinks this were some kind of closure. To which she responds, “Closure is bullshit.”
I have often felt that the word “closure” was not the best word to describe what happens as one works through grief. Closure implies an ending, or the closing of a door. It suggests some kind of resolution or finality. My experience in grief work has led me to think that the suffering which consumes us in a tragic loss does not get resolved. The intensity and frequency of it may, over time, moderate, but the aroma of it is always there. Closing a door to that part of your life doesn’t mean you don’t walk down the hallway and discover the scent of the pain wafting out from under the door, transporting you back to the place of pain.
And those who have suffered loss of love do not want closure. They do not want to forget the love they have known. They want the pain of loss to subside. They want an ending to the intolerable suffering of absence. But, closing a door on our memory of love is seldom what is desired.
What one hopes for in grieving is the weaving together the stories of love into the tapestry of our self understanding. And along with the love, weave the pain into the picture so what we become not only those who know the pleasure of love, but also know the pain it brings with it. When we do that, we live our future as persons who know the truth of loss and precious joy of love. When we live this way, we live more compassionately and empathically with those around us. We experience the rich texture of creation in the fullness of its pain and pleasure.