After experiencing the death of someone we love, we hope to gain closure following their death. We look at different things, such as honoring their lives and finding meaning in their death. But we may not know entirely what it means to get closure from their death or if it’s even possible ever to get there.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Can You Actually Get Closure After a Loved One’s Death?
- Tips for Getting Closure After a Loved One Dies
- Tips for Accepting That You May Not Get Closure After a Loved One Dies
Defining closure in our society generally means moving past our pain and suffering and leaving behind our grief. We have timelines and milestones to mark our progression and expect most people to get over their sorrow in six to 12 months following a death or other tragic event.
However, when grieving a significant loss, it’s sometimes unrealistic to expect someone to move on with their life in such a short amount of time.
Can You Actually Get Closure After a Loved One’s Death?
Finding closure after death is possible for many, but not all. Closure can be described as a process that a grieving person will go through following a loss that isn’t defined by any particular moment. Finding closure requires the acceptance of the reality of your loss.
This might mean, for example, that you stop expecting your loved one to walk in through the door after the end of a long day at work. It means that you accept that you’ll never again hear their voice or that you’ll never again feel their touch.
The entire grieving process and healing journey can be different for everyone. We all grieve and find closure differently. Some people will find acceptance of their loved one’s death immediately following the event, while, for others, it may take months to accept that their loved one has died and won’t be coming back.
You can find closure in many ways. For some, getting professional counseling or therapy will help. For others, immersing themselves in a new hobby or activity will allow them an opportunity to move forward from their loss.
Other factors affecting closure are the relationship between the person who died and the circumstances surrounding their death. You can expect that closure will never be complete when a loved one died tragically or at a very young age. Following this type of death can be a lifelong process and one that is never totally complete.
Tips for Getting Closure After a Loved One Dies
Grief is rarely a linear process. Finding closure after the death of a loved one or other traumatic event usually involves the understanding that things are forever changed and will never go back to the way they were. Closure is part of the grieving process and is necessary to fully heal after suffering a significant loss.
Finding closure doesn’t mean an end to the love you had for your loved one or that you’ll stop loving them or forget about them. There’ll forever be that aspect of their being that you’ll miss and yearn for from time to time.
Closure simply means coming to grips with what’s happened and seeing it in the context of what once was but can no longer be. The following tips can help you find closure after someone you love dies.
1. Allow time to mourn
Give yourself some time to grieve your loss and accept how your life has changed after loss. Some changes will not be as apparent and may take longer to manifest than others. For example, when you experience a spouse or lifelong partner's death, you may not notice subtle changes in your social calendar.
Over time, you may recognize that your friends have distanced themselves from you and that you aren't receiving social invitations as frequently as before. This is only one example of all the things you should expect to change after a significant loss. Try and avoid rushing through your grief after experiencing a setback.
2. Find forgiveness
Learn to forgive yourself and those who may have been responsible for your loved one’s death. Sometimes, when you hold in your anger and resentment, it may cause the breakdown of your relationships with your spouse, partner, or other loved ones. As challenging as it may be to find forgiveness, look for ways of seeing things from a different perspective.
When asking yourself if you could’ve done things differently, look at all the things you did do right and give yourself credit for them. If another person was responsible for your loved one’s death, look for ways to let go of the circumstances leading up to your loved one's death and accept that you can’t change the outcome.
3. Keep a journal
Writing down your thoughts and ideas as they come up will help you release some of the pain and suffering associated with your loss. When you write things down, it enables you to make sense of your grieving process and what you’re going through as you experience it.
Journaling is a safe way to process your feelings and emotions and allows you to come back to revisit them as you move forward through your healing journey. You can choose to share your journal with your therapist or with members of your online grief support group.
4. Hold a memorial service
Funerals and memorial services can help bring closure following a loved one's death for some people, but not all. Giving or hearing a eulogy memorializing your loved one's life can immensely heal and help with the grieving process.
A memorial service allows you to reflect on your loved one's life and death which helps bring a sense of closure. This death ritual helps bring about a shift in the reality of them no longer being physically here.
On the other hand, a memorial service or funeral is only the beginning of their grief for some people. It signifies the beginning of their life without their loved ones. It also represents the start of getting acquainted with their grief.
5. Try therapy
Sometimes it may be necessary to seek outside support to help you process your loved one’s death and find closure. The importance of finding closure following a traumatic event lies in why people want answers and explanations as to why their loved one died.
Finding truth doesn’t equate to the end of your pain and suffering. And, reasons don’t always mean that it makes a positive difference in your grief journey.
Sometimes finding out the truth can be even more challenging to accept and process your loved one’s death. There are many online therapy or counseling services where you can find good, quality help whenever needed.
Tips for Accepting That You May Not Get Closure After a Loved One Dies
The desire to have closure or resolution after the death of a loved one is part of our human nature. We want explanations for the things we don’t understand, and we find it difficult to move forward when pieces of the puzzle are missing.
When you don’t have the answers you seek, it’s easy to go into a downward spiral of sadness and despair. But the reality is that you won’t always get answers to questions you seek, making it difficult to find closure. The following tips are for those times when you might not get the closure you seek or desire.
6. Focus on moving forward
When you focus on moving forward following a significant loss, it helps with the grief process when there isn’t any resolution otherwise. Take one day at a time in the initial stages and work your way up to planning a week or two at a time.
Try filling your calendar with new activities or doing things that are outside of your comfort zone. Go easy on yourself and expect that your grief will ebb and flow for the next few weeks and months.
7. Find your purpose
Finding purpose and meaning in your life after loss can do wonders for your healing journey. You may not know your purpose in life, but after suffering the loss of a loved one, your priorities might have shifted to something new.
For some, that may involve finding a particular purpose that gives meaning to your loved one’s life. For others, it may mean forging an entirely new identity outside of the role they filled when their loved one was alive.
8. Accept your feelings
It’s okay to allow yourself to grieve over the death of your loved one. Crying, feeling sad, angry, and confused are all part of the natural grief process. Let all of those emotions come up to the surface, and try not to judge yourself for feeling what you feel. When you suppress your feelings, it stops you from moving forward in your healing. Pent-up emotions tend to erupt when least expected.
9. Confide in a friend
Having someone to reach out to when you need love and support is essential in your healing process. They may offer you advice, a new perspective, or a shoulder to cry on. Having close personal relationships during a time of grief also gives you a sense of security, knowing you have someone to lean on when times get rough.
10. Get counseling
Not everyone gets through their grief quickly and neatly. You might find certain times more challenging to get through than others. When you’re feeling particularly vulnerable and in need of extra support, consider going online and signing up for services that offer grief counseling.
Grief counselors know and understand what you need to help you get through the toughest times in your grief. You’ll be able to find some low-cost or even free grief counseling available through the many resources online.
Finding Closure After the Death of a Loved One
There's no specific point where you'll stop missing your loved one. When you understand a few things about the grief process, you can help yourself, and others find peace after loss. There are types of losses where you'll learn to function and move on from, but that you'll never completely forget.
One aspect of finding closure comes when you accept that death comes to all people and that it's necessary to move on with your life instead of clinging on to what used to be.