‘Moving on’ and ‘Closure’ – by Trish Thomas
O.E.D. : Closed condition; in Parliament – to put the question without further debate
Closure is a word frequently voiced by therapists, self-help gurus, assorted social media ‘experts’, some statutory sector professionals – medical, judicial, police – all of whom are expressing the hope that people they have dealt with can put their trauma behind them. The idea of moving on from a trauma by neatly filing it in ‘the past’ and then continuing life in a sun filled future without the shadow of past clouds is a relatively recent construct that has developed significant traction since the 1990s. However, it is a made-up concept, without a basis in psychological process. Emotions do not function in such a nice, neat way and not to any pre-ordained timescale.
There are dangers in a pressure to ‘recover’ to conform to the expectations of others. Feeling unable to voice feelings because this might discomfort others can result in self-medicating (alcohol/ drugs) or rushing into new perhaps unsuitable relationships in the hope of blocking the pain. After a traumatic event, commonly people rally round and offer help in practical (e.g., bringing food/transport) and other human contact ways (e.g., just being there/listening/ dropping in to see if anything is needed). This can last for days, weeks or months (if you are really lucky). Then support , like any tide, ebbs. Contacts lessen, readiness to listen (again) diminishes and is replaced by attempts to change the subject –‘’you don’t want to be thinking about that….’’. The continuing need to talk and try to make sense of what has happened triggers a look that says, silently, you should be moving on/over it by now.
Time goes by, the ordinary demands of life – paying mortgages and bills, attending to the needs of others/ trying to re-connect with social activities – have to be addressed. Life delivers both welcome events – weddings/births/graduations/new jobs/promotions – and those not so welcome – accidents/crime/flooding – all have to be either celebrated or resolved. Sometimes past memories and the associated questions rise up and intrude on the happiness or make the coping with the latest challenge even more difficult. The unanswered questions have not gone away and the search for understanding of that past trauma comes back bringing renewed pain. The issue is not closed, we have moved on carrying this vulnerability within us.
In the early days we may have turned for help to counsellors, clinicians, bereavement group sessions providing valuable contact with others in a similar situation, but the passage of time can mean that this does not ‘fit’ as comfortably with us now. Suicide Bereaved Community aims to provide a new means of securing contact with others that do not need explanations, who ‘get it’ because we are in a similar place. We can ‘move on’ together sharing understanding of what that really means, celebration of life’s good milestones and offering our support in coping with the difficult times.