What is Relationship Closure? Healing Without a Goodbye
Here’s what relationship closure is and why it’s so important, plus tips for healing and moving on after an unexpected loss or breakup.
On one of my articles about breaking up (I’ve written many and many of them), a reader asked How to Get Over a Broken Heart when there isn’t relationship closure. She sees her boyfriend at work every day, and asked me why she’s having such a difficult time getting over the breakup. One of the most important things to remember about healthy relationship closure is that it has to involve physical and emotional distance. You can’t heal and move on if you’re still seeing your ex. Or, worse, sleeping with him.
The problem is that sometimes you lose someone and you’re forced to continue seeing them. Maybe you have children together…or maybe you’re still part of the same family. Yes, you can heal without saying goodbye. Yes, it hurts a lot. Below I describe what relationship closure is and offer suggestions for letting go of an ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, or spouse.
What is Relationship Closure?
Relationship closure is when you – whether you’re a married partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, disgruntled colleague, or unhappy family member – don’t discuss why your love relationship ended. Relationship closure involves honest, healthy, open-minded, nonjudgmental communication.
In my article about letting go of someone you love, a reader said she doesn’t feel she has closure after her relationship ended. Her fiancé of nine years wasn’t honest about why he left her. They didn’t talk about it.
Relationship closure is important because it can teach you why your relationship didn’t work out. This can help you see yourself and your ex in healthy ways, and show you how to grow. Relationship closure also helps with letting go of an ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, or spouse. Closure can help you learn from the mistakes you made.
Relationship closure helps you heal by setting your mind at ease about how your love relationship unfolded. Even if you made mistakes and were part of the reason your love relationship failed, closure can make you stronger by preparing you for future love relationships.
Denying an ex closure when you’re breaking up is worse than unhealthy: it’s damaging and destructive. Healing comes faster and easier when you’ve had a chance to say goodbye.
If you have no relationship closure, read What to Do After a Break Up.
Getting relationship closure is difficult because…
When you’re the one who wants to let go, you may find it easier to avoid talking about it! It’s natural for people to want to avoid pain. Relationship closure is difficult because it’s painful to talk about weaknesses and faults. Closure can involve more pain than just letting someone go without explanation…which is, I think, what my reader’s fiancé was doing when he ended the relationship. He was trying to avoid causing her — and himself — more pain.
It’s unfortunate that we’re not taught how to break up with people we love!
How to Heal Without Relationship Closure
At the end of this article are resources for saying goodbye without formally ending a relationship. You’ll never learn all you need to know about healing without closure from a blog post like this. You need in-depth help, such as books or even counseling.
That said, however, here are a few brief suggestions about letting go without closure.
Write a letter to your ex, expressing yourself fully
Ideally, relationship closure involves two people. Realistically, life is rarely idea! Often we have to let go of relationships without fully talking about why they’re ending or how to move on in healthy ways.
One way to deal with the end of a relationship without closure is to write the person a letter. Express everything that’s inside of you – good and bad, ugly and beautiful. The letter can be as long as you need; you can add to it for days or weeks. Should you send the letter? It depends. But — it’s important not to send the letter right away (if ever).
Change your environment
If your ex moved out of the house, you might consider finding a new place to live. If someone you love passed on, you might even consider moving to a different state or province.
Saying goodbye without relationship closure might be easier if you’re in an entirely new place. Remember, however, that “wherever you go, there you are.” We don’t leave our emotional baggage behind when we leave a geographical or physical location, do we? So the idea of changing your environment may or may not be helpful, depending on your circumstances.
Do you regret the breakup? Learn clever ways to text your ex back
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Explore a different lifestyle
My reader mentioned that she worked hard on her career; after the breakup, she might carve out more free time to explore her hobbies, travel, or take classes.
One of the best ways to deal with anything in life is to pursue spiritual and emotional health. Re-establish your relationship with God, read books about healing without relationship closure, connect with people who uplift and respect you.
Make new friends
You don’t need to abandon your old friends to find relationship closure. However, you may find it refreshing to build new friendships with people who don’t know you from your “old relationship” days.
Are you struggling with loneliness? I am 100% sure you are, because we all do. Making new friends is a Band-Aid for relationship closure and loneliness. To start thinking about true healing, read 7 Unexpected Ways to Stop Feeling Lonely Right Now.
Talk to a professional
I’m a huge fan of counseling because therapists help you see yourself and your relationships objectively.
A counselor can help you see why you’re having trouble letting go of an ex, and help you learn to find closure on your own. My reader mentioned that she was pregnant but lost the baby; this can seriously complicate the whole process of letting go without relationship closure.
If you’re dealing with a complex situation or complicated grief after losing someone you love, you might want to call a helpline or join a support group. Get help. Don’t tackle this whole idea of “relationship closure” alone.
Recognize that you are responsible for your feelings
Nobody can “make you feel anything.” When you feel any emotion, you can choose whether to let that feeling sweep you away or derail it and put a more positive emotion in place. Those feelings of worthlessness or being unlovable are emotions you have control over – you do not have to feel that way.
Remember that letting go of someone you love isn’t something you do once – and poof! You’re free, healed, and happy! Rather, letting go is a journey peppered with steps forward and steps backward, good days and bad days, peaks and valleys.
For more suggestions on healing without relationship closure, read 10 Tips for Breaking Free From Toxic Relationships.
“It takes a couple seconds to say Hello, but forever to say Goodbye.” ~ Anonymous.
If you feel abandoned (which often happens when relationship closure isn’t part of a breakup), read The Journey From Abandonment to Healing: Turn the End of a Relationship into the Beginning of a New Life by Susan Anderson. Most people lose a piece of their heart when say goodbye to someone they love. But, life after a breakup (even without relationship closure) can still be meaningful, happy, and exciting – and there is love and laughter after breaking up! It just takes time to heal.
Susan Anderson’s book will take you through the stages of grieving over a lost relationship, and help you heal without saying good-bye directly to the person you lost.
And if you have any thoughts on relationship closure, please comment below. I can’t offer relationship advice or counseling, but you might find it helpful to share your experience. Read through the comments on how to detach from someone you care about. You’ll see you’re not alone, and you may find strength and hope in the stories of other readers.
Expressing your feelings on not having relationship closure might help you heal and move forward.
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