A woman sitting on the floor looking at her phone representing not knowing how to get closure

When relationships end, it’s painful, especially if you weren’t the one who called it quits. In order to move forward, you need to find closure, make sense of what happened, and process your complicated feelings of loss. But how exactly can you get closure, release your pain, and begin to heal?

If you’re dealing with the painful aftermath of a breakup or divorce, you know that getting closure is easier said than done. You’re profoundly hurt, your self-esteem has been smashed to bits, and there’s an empty void in your life that used to be filled with your Ex. I’ve been there myself, and I’ve walked with many others along their own healing journeys in breakup and divorce recovery counseling. Over the years, I have become something of a breakup recovery expert, and I even wrote a book on how to get over your Ex and heal from heartbreak.

I know that you won’t feel this way forever… But that doesn’t feel very reassuring when you’re stuck and hurting.

Here’s what I’ve learned in my decades of experience as a breakup therapist: Closure isn’t something that “just happens.” Time alone does not heal all wounds. You have to be actively engaged in a process of healing and growth in order to find closure and free yourself from heartbreak. Many people believe they need their Ex to say or do something so they can get closure — like apologize, or explain what happened, or simply show them that they care about their pain. But closure isn’t something your Ex can give to you, and believing that is inherently disempowering. You have all the tools you need to create your own closure, right now. Let’s talk about how so you can start feeling better.

(Psst…. If you’d rather listen, I’ve also recorded an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast on this topic. You can find it on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts).

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What Does ‘Closure’ Mean?

After a painful loss, closure is the process of making meaning out of what happened to you, incorporating it into your worldview, and letting yourself be changed in positive ways because of what you’ve been through. When you have closure, you no longer need to spend a lot of time or emotional energy thinking about what happened. It is simply a part of your story. You can reflect on it when you choose without feeling overwhelming pain. Most of the time, you can set it aside and focus on other things. 

Closure is a stage of healing after any major loss, whether you’re grieving the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the loss of a relationship with someone important to you.

Here are some signs that you haven’t found closure yet after your breakup or divorce:

Sound familiar? Before you’ve achieved closure, it’s like there’s an open wound inside of you that is being ripped open again and again. Even if you know the relationship is over, you are still engaging in it mentally, which keeps your pain fresh rather than letting it heal.

Feeling this way is normal and expected. It’s one of the stages of a breakup, but you can get stuck here for months or even years if you don’t know how to get closure. When I’m working with a breakup or divorce recovery who’s stuck like this, it’s usually because they have some limiting beliefs about what closure is and where closure comes from.

How to Get Closure: Myth vs. Reality

Here’s a funny thing about closure. When people say they “want closure,” they often really want to re-open things. As in, opening up the lines of communication, or keeping themselves open to the possibility that they may bet back together with their Ex. You might not even be aware that this is what you’re doing. It can feel like your motive is to get what you need to get over your Ex and move on, when it’s really to avoid accepting that this relationship is over.

So you convince yourself that you should text your Ex, or have sex with your Ex, or write your Ex a 7,000-word email, or scroll through their Instagram feed. You say you just want closure, and you really mean it, because your brain is very skilled at convincing you that reconnecting with your Ex is a positive, helpful thing to do. Just as someone with an alcohol problem may believe in their heart that they would be able to quit once and for all if they could just have one more drink, a heartbroken person believes that more contact with their Ex can help them get over their breakup.

If you’re telling yourself that you need any of the following things from your Ex, you may be keeping yourself from getting real closure:

  1. Validation

Do you long to hear your Ex say, “You were right, I was wrong. Here are all the ways that I hurt you…?” Do you believe that, if you could just get them to acknowledge what you went through, then something would magically change and you wouldn’t feel so stuck

These are signs that you’re seeking external validation, which is common after a breakup. It happens because breakups damage your self-esteem. While you do need validation to recover from a breakup, validation is something you can give to yourself (or receive from friends, family members, or a good breakup therapist). You certainly don’t need your Ex to tell you that the pain you feel is real or that your point of view makes sense. Other people are not more insightful or wise than you are. By rejecting this idea and instead trusting yourself to decide what your own experiences mean, you take your power back. 

  1. Justice

It’s common to feel angry, especially if you endured crappy treatment in your relationship. Even if your Ex was fundamentally kind and respectful, it’s still totally normal to feel some anger when a relationship ends. You may be entertaining fantasies about telling your Ex off, or demanding an apology, or letting everyone know that you dated a big jerk. Then you’d feel better, right? 

Probably not. There’s a time and a place for legitimate anger, but sometimes our anger can become focused on others, which is inherently disempowering since the actions of other people are not something you can control. When you start believing that you can’t move on until you get an apology or some kind of justice, your healing process stalls. To let go of resentment and get closure, you need help processing your anger productively and independently. 

  1. Information

Why did they leave you? When did things start to change? Did you miss the signs your relationship was failing? Do they still think about you? Has your Ex moved on with someone new? Why couldn’t they be the partner you needed them to be? Did they ever really love you? What did they mean when they said (fill in the blank)? 

If you have questions like these swirling in your head, you may believe that you can’t get closure until you get more information. But this is a myth. Even if you were genuinely blindsided by your breakup, which is shocking and hurtful indeed, it is still not true that you can’t heal until your Ex tells you “The Truth” about what happened. You get to generate your own narrative — one that is empowering, comforting, and that leads to better things in your future. This is what every heartbroken person has to do for themselves, no matter what happened in their relationship, or how it ended. 

Getting Closure in a Relationship

Real closure comes when you are able to make meaning out of your breakup. To do this, you have to actively piece together your own story about what happened, why it happened, how it fits into the larger story of your life, and what’s next for you. This process helps you put things in order mentally so that your mind can let it rest. No one can do this for you — we all have to process our own losses and decide for ourselves what the events of our lives mean. As much as you may feel like you need answers from your Ex, there is no healthy way of letting someone else’s narrative replace your own. 

You don’t need your Ex to tell you that the pain you feel is real or that your point of view makes sense. Other people are not more insightful or wise than you are.

Dr. Lisa marie bobby

So, how can you do this? Here is my five-step process for creating closure after a breakup or divorce:

  1. Journaling to Get Closure: Grab a notebook and write down all the questions you have for your Ex. Then answer them yourself. Don’t get too hung up on whether or not you have the “right” answers — this isn’t math. Everyone is filtering their own reality and making their own meaning out of it. What matters is what you believe, not whether or not it matches up with anybody else’s rubric. 
  2. Validate Your Story: When you find the narrative that makes sense to you, that feels the best, and that gives you a sense of hope and empowerment, THAT is the right one. So trust yourself and validate it — because you are correct about this. When your brain returns to your breakup to chew on the “what ifs” and the “if onlys,” gently tell yourself this story again. It is yours to keep.
  3. Embrace Growth Opportunities: Next, think about what this experience taught you. Don’t beat yourself up for your regrets or mistakes, but reflect on what you learned and what you want to do differently next time. Turning pain and trauma into personal growth is an important part of healing. It helps you find meaning in your heartbreak and reignites your hope for your future.  
  4. Give Yourself What You Need: Finally, think about what you think you need from your Ex, and find ways to give these things to yourself. If you need them to tell you that they care about you, then find ways to take care of yourself. If you want an apology, apologize to yourself. Think about what you want to hear from them. That you deserve better? That you are worthy of love and respect? That everything is going to be okay? Tell yourself these things, outloud, or in your journal, or in your heart. 
  5. Repeat as many times as necessary.

Here’s an example of how this looks in action: If you’re wondering why your Ex didn’t talk to you about how they were feeling before blindsiding you, you might decide that it’s because they’re extremely conflict avoidant. They were so freaked out about having an authentic conversation about feelings that they ran away from your relationship like a scared little kid. These traits actually indicate that they wouldn’t be such a great long-term partner anyway. It’s probably for the best that this relationship ended sooner rather than later. In the future, you’ll look for partners who are more open and courageous enough to have difficult conversations.

See how this narrative nudges your Ex off the pedestal, while also giving your brain something to sink its teeth into? It literally doesn’t matter if you’re “right” or not. Your brain needs a story that helps it makes sense of what happened. Give it one that helps you move forward.

When you look to others for answers, you rob yourself of the opportunity to get authentic closure, and to come out the other side of your breakup, stronger than before. It is your job to give yourself what you need. Accepting this responsibility helps you become more resilient, more empowered, and more at peace. 

Support for Getting Closure

Losing a relationship with someone you love is emotionally shattering, and sometimes you need a caring guide by your side to offer support, encouragement and motivation. The breakup therapists on my team know how to help you find closure, heal, and emerge from this experience stronger than ever. If you’d like to do this powerful work with a Growing Self expert, I invite you to schedule a free consultation

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. — If you’d like more articles and podcast episodes on breakup recovery, check out our “Healing After Heartbreak” collection

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How to Get Closure

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Music in this episode is by Sofia Bolt with their song “Get Out of My Head.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://sofiabolt.bandcamp.com/. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.

Lisa Marie Bobby: Hi, this is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness and Success podcast. If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a breakup or a divorce, you might be struggling to get closure. Without closure, you can feel stuck emotionally, it can be hard to move on. But if you’re like a lot of people, you might be trying to create closure in ways that are actually disempowering, and will unintentionally perpetuate emotional stuckness so today we’re doing a deep dive into how you can create your own closure so that you can heal grow and finally move forward.

We’re listening to “Sofia Bolt” with her song “Get Out of my Head”, which I chose possibly for obvious reasons. But you know, today we’re talking about how to create your own closure for the purpose of getting that person out of your head once and for all so that you can have mental, emotional freedom and really move on with your life and closure will bring you that.  Awesome song, I thought it was appropriate for today and awesome artist, isn’t she great? You can go and check out what Sofia Bolt is up to on her Bandcamp page. It is Sofia with an f, sofiabolt.bandcamp.com. This track is called “Get Out of my Head.” But she has all kinds of great stuff. You can go learn about her, see what she’s up to maybe catch her out on tour and have a good time. 

All right. Real quick, before we dive into this topic, I do want to thank you for reaching out to me. I’ve had so many people get in touch through my website GrowingSelf.com, through Instagram, just letting me know, what’s on your mind? What’s going on in your life? What would be helpful for you, for me to be talking more about on this show. I’ve had a number of you reaching out, you know, with this question like, “Why am I still thinking about my person, what do I need to do?”

I just want you to know that that’s where this podcast is coming from, is in response to your  questions, because we are co-creating the Love, Happiness and Success podcast together. Thank you for getting in touch with me. If you have other follow-up questions or things that you want to know about, you know, I’m I am here, I make these for you. Please do let me know what’s on your mind. 

With regards to closure, you know, we have talked a lot on this podcast, I’ve written many articles, heck a whole book on the subject of how to heal after a relationship loss. There is a lot going on and unfortunately, I mean even even in my profession, I’m a licensed psychologist, I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and learned zero things about the nature of love and really practical ways to help people heal after heartbreak through a traditional psychology and mental health degree. Because mental health practitioners are trained to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. 

The things that happen to us after we lose a relationship are not pathological. They are not abnormal. It’s a very normal and expected response to loss that we go through. But I think as such, it’s not one that has been well understood or well studied. In my career, I was counseling people who are going through this and I was observing them being stuck and not knowing how to move on and I was feeling stuck as their helper like “Oh my gosh, what can I do to help them start moving forward?” And it led me to do a lot of my own research and because I am a card carrying nerd and before I went to counseling school, I actually did a biology degree.

I actually found the answers to understanding what was happening for my clients in a much more effective way of helping them move forward through biology actually, rather than psychology because there is a lot that’s happening when it comes to attachment bonds, relationship formation, perpetuation, and ending that are actually quite physiological in nature and that are tied into our evolutionary survival drives. 

I won’t go deeply into that right now, because I’ve discussed it many times on past podcasts and other articles.  But if you are interested to hear more about that, you can go to growingself.com, navigate to our blog and podcast. From there, you will find, if you tap into the Love Collection, I have all my content organized into love, happiness and success on the websites, I go into the Love Collection. You will find a content collection that is all about heartbreak recovery.

There are all the articles that I have written that other people on my team have written here at Growing Self.  I’ve also created a special Spotify playlist that’s just embedded right in that page. You can just find all the podcasts on that subject go through them to learn more. Of course, there’s the Exaholics book, you can check that out too, if you’d like to. We’ve talked a lot about that. But what I have really talked about on this podcast before, is the special role that closure has in the process of heartbreak, healing, and recovery and it’s really important. 

We’re gonna be talking about closure in a few different aspects. But speaking broadly, we’re going to be talking about what closure is, like what it means, why it’s important, and what are things that people often do in efforts to create closure, that are actually obstacles to creating closure. I know it sounds so weird but people try to create it by doing things that are actively disempowering and unhelpful, because who teaches you how to create closure, right, we try to figure it out. We’re going to be talking a lot about the things that can keep you stuck. 

We’ll be talking about some really specific, powerful, empowering tools that will help you create that closure you’re seeking, and how those will support your growth process, your healing process. I have lots planned for us today.

First of all, if we dive into step one of this, you know, what is closure, it is a word that gets thrown around a lot. But what does that even mean? What it really means is that whenever, we have something big happen in our lives, and it can be applied to a relationship loss, that’s primarily what we can talk about today. But, you know, if you’re listening to this podcast ever, after having dealt with some other event, like maybe you lost a job, maybe you lost a dream, maybe you lost a loved one, maybe you’ve lost your health, like, there’s all kinds of different losses that we all face and go through and closure is a very important stage of healing. It is part of how healing happens, is by creating closure.

What it is, is being able to create a narrative of what happened. Being able to, in your mind, make sense of the experiences that you’ve gone through. It is putting things in order, mentally making sense of a situation, kind of putting things in line. Through that process, It’s like we are able to finally finish unfinished business with the past, when we can kind of within ourselves say “Okay, I understand what happened. I understand why it happened. This makes sense to me now. Yeah, okay, I have clarity, I have achieved some kind of meaning from this” If we don’t have that, or before we have created that, we have, like this open loop in our minds. We have unfinished emotional business with the past and because of that, we, you know, just have a fundamental need to all of us, like psychologically, mentally, and emotionally be able to make sense of ourselves and our world and our life experiences. 

If you don’t have that, it feels like something is missing. Like your mind keeps going back to it. You’re rehashing things, you’re thinking about things that did happen, you’re thinking about things that could have happened, you’re sort of ruminating on stuff. Because it’s like, your mind is just trying and trying and trying to close that gap, bring it together, our brains do not like being in an open space where things don’t make sense. Even if you’re not actively attempting to create closure, subconsciously, your mind is still working away at that. 

That’s why a lot of people report feeling like they can’t stop thinking about their acts, or they’re rehashing things, they’re ruminating. With any kind of loss, you know, a job loss, or maybe you had a negative experience with a friend or a loved one or a colleague, and until you have that understanding of what happened and like, “Okay, I know where to go from here,” you will have dreams about it, it will, you’ll have intrusive thoughts about it, it’s like, it’s just unfinished. What closure is, is actively doing the work of finishing it with inside of yourself. Because it’s only when you have that, then you can be able to distance yourself from it mentally and emotionally. Until you do that, it’s like an open thing. It’s something that hasn’t been completed yet. That is what closure is. 

You can also think about closure as feeling like a final ending to something. You know, an analogy here is that when we go through a loss of a loved one, right? We have rituals that bring a kind of finality to things. I’m thinking specifically, things like funerals, retirement parties, you know, I mean, there are things that humans have developed; rituals, ways of handling milestones, or life transitions, that are actually very powerful and important, because they serve to help us achieve closure like, for example, you know, being at a funeral, and having people stand up and provide eulogies, coming together to acknowledge the loss. Certainly, you know, grieving, the grieving process extends far beyond that.

But there is a very powerful, just psychological and emotional process that occurs through the ritual itself, it is conducive to creating closure. It’s important to be able to apply those same ideas to the other kinds of closure that we really need to have when we go through other kinds of life losses, but that really aren’t acknowledged or formalized in the same way. Certainly a breakup or a divorce would be a great example of that.

But even things like, you know, a pregnancy loss, losing a job, it would be wonderful if we could have funerals for all of those kinds of things. It’s the act of being able to say goodbye, really in a structured way. To have that loss acknowledged, and to have space made for the fact that we really do need to spend some time thinking about what happened, processing it for ourselves. Certainly, having time to grieve and mourn what we have lost before we can feel mentally and emotionally ready to say hello to the next new thing.

There are just so many different aspects of modern life. We’re not, there aren’t societally created constructs that provide those things for us. You know, when somebody dies, it’s expected that you have a funeral and you have people coming in and like, “Okay, let’s play on those.” That is not the case with most other things in life. It’s very important that, you know, step one, the understanding that whether or not it is a common thing that people that you feel like people do, or that’s expected of you, you do need it and deserve it. We’ll need to create that for yourself because it won’t come from anywhere else. That is one important thing to understand about closure in the context of category two kinds of losses that we can experience in our lives.

The other thing to know about closure, is that it is an active process of again, piecing together the story of “What the heck happened? When did it start? Why did it happen? When? How could I have done something differently? What does this mean? You know, what happens next?” So many unfinished questions. 

One of the things that is very, very common, and is, you know, really one of the most disempowering traps that people can blunder into without even realizing they’re doing it that will keep them stuck is that particularly with relationship loss, people often feel that they need to get closure with or from their ex. It feels like they need to have a conversation with their ex or some kind of moment together where things that were unsaid are finally said, there’s some kind of final goodbye or if they could only get information maybe from their ex that would help them feel, you know, like, have finally the understanding, the resolution that they’re looking for. 

The disempowering part is that, when you’re looking for that from outside of yourself, it prevents you from being able to take that active creative role that it actually requires. Again, that’s one of the things that very often keeps people stuck. Because if you’re waiting for that to happen, or feeling like you need to have some kind of experience involving another person, before you can feel better and move on. You know, the reality is that that is not how this works. 

Holding on to that myth, or even, you know, you might not even be consciously aware that that is a core belief, I often talk to people, and we discuss that and they’re like, “You know, what, I have been feeling like, I need that from my ex in order to be able to move on.” But like, they haven’t even, that hasn’t been a conscious thought in their head until we start talking about it, you know, so, but if, if that is true for you, it feels like you can’t close that loop on your own, you’re waiting for somebody else to provide meaning context for some for somebody else to give you the answers that you’re looking for. It is just one of the biggest reasons why people stay stuck in this. 

Today, you know, I really want to be sharing lots of ideas of things that you could do to take your power back and create that closure for yourself and not waiting for somebody else to give it to you. Because it’s your process. You need to put the pieces together, you need to be writing your own story. You know, reality, at the end of the day, is always a subjective experience for all of us. We need to create our own stories, decide for ourselves what things mean, there is no way of, well, no healthy ways of having that given to you. That is part of being a healthy growing person is just figuring out how to do that for yourself and practicing it regularly. Because everything that happens is always filtered through our own mental narrative. 

Two people standing side by side could witness exactly the same event and because of their different perspectives, or different mental filters, could experience it in very, very different ways. They could attribute different meaning to things, they could have different feelings about it as the result for one person, it might be like, “That was a worst thing that was ever happened to me, it was so incredibly traumatizing, and I will never recover.” The person standing right next to them say, “That was hard. I learned a lot, I’m grateful for that. I’m actually stronger as a result and it wasn’t a horrible experience of actually, you know, helped me move forward.” But it’s not because of the event itself. It’s because of what we do with that. That goes back into the mindset, the narrative. 

That’s a bit about, you know, what, what closure is and how it works and why it’s so important for all of us. But now I would also really like to talk about some of the obstacles to actually achieving closure that many many people stumble into, and that make them get stuck, but without even realizing it because I think that all of the obstacles come from our instinctively trying to create closure in ways that just feel like what we need to be doing but that are actually unhelpful, I’m afraid this isn’t making a ton of sense, all will be revealed. 

Let’s just jump right into it that the biggest obstacles for actually getting closure are typically either seeking external validation and/or seeking justice, like needing emotional restitution from somebody else, or needing information that feels like it needs to be supplied by outside sources, rather than your own internal process of meaning making an understanding. Speaking broadly, and there are other things that can happen too that we’ll talk about, but those are the biggest things that will absolutely, 100% of the time, get you stuck, and keep you stuck. Let’s dive into that to understand it. 

If we take them one at a time, you know, first of all that, that desire for external validation, and what I mean by that is when we want slash need external validation, it means that we are looking for confirmation, that our way of looking at things or life experiences or interpretation of events are shared, and also confirmed by other people. It can be wanting, it feels like wanting other people to agree with us or support our own self understanding. Like, that was really horrible, wasn’t it and have somebody else say, “Yes, that was horrible.” That would be like, you were seeking that validation for our own experience. 

But particularly if this is coming up for you around like a relationship loss, if it’s a desire to have your experiences or your feelings validated by your ex, to hear them say something like, “You were right, I was wrong, here are the mistakes that I made in this relationship.” Believe it or not, that can be a real sticking point for people. 

It’s almost like they need to have that from their ex, and it feels like until they do, they cannot move past it. Why this will get you stuck is because whenever we go through relationship loss, and there’s a biological basis for this, as I’ve discussed on other programs, but relationship loss biologically, creates a drop in our self esteem, believe it or not, our self confidence, our empowerment, even, is diminished. Physiologically, biologically, when our attachment bonds are threatened or broken, and there are reasons for this, I won’t go into a lot of detail. But again, our attachment bonds are related to a very deep evolutionary survival drive.

It is not conducive to human survival in a historical sense, to be empowered, and like, “Screw you, I’m outta here”, in you know, 50,000 years ago, that would very quickly have resulted in swift death, because humans need to be part of a tribe, a collective, a family to survive in like the natural world. In modern life, those things are different. You can end a relationship or leave your tribe and go somewhere else and not be, you know, taken out by a sabertooth tiger 15 minutes later, but the artifact is still there in how we feel emotionally.

Whenever we’re going through a relationship loss, the natural and normal response is to question one’s judgment, question one’s worth, blame oneself, “Was I right? I was probably wrong”. That is part of what makes us vulnerable to feeling like we need external validation is because we’re not really trusting your own judgment in those moments. I think just understanding that, in itself can be validating and empowering because even though you may be feeling like you need that from somebody else, you don’t have to get tricked into believing that feeling is true. So I just wanted to say that out loud. 

Then another thing that will often create stuckness or disempowerment for people, which actually feels very powerful, sort of the flip side of the same coin. But in response to that, that threatened or real attachment loss, we can also have like there’s fight or flight, we can also go into fight, right. That comes up in these feelings of anger, how dare you, I want justice, I need an apology, I am so mad at you and I require emotional restitution before I can let this go. You know, it’s like you, you need to have something done almost in order to feel like you were — the word that’s coming up is, like, paid — but paid back, do you know, it’s like, it’s like you’re owed something from another person and until you get that you just can’t mentally or emotionally drop it. 

That is a tricky one. Because there is also a time and place for legitimate anger, I’m all for that. You may have experienced things over the course of this relationship, or a job, you know, or some kind of really traumatic situation, where feeling angry about it, is really, really healthy and good. There’s kind of like an assessment that needs to be done. You know, if anger is a lot of what’s happening inside of you right now, that would actually be something that might be worth talking to a counselor or a therapist about, for the purpose of understanding, where is this anger coming from, and having a place to process it in a really healthy way. Because anger is good, it is important, it is powerful, it is our friend. 

To have a place to process that anger in a productive way is really, really useful, particularly if you have gone through something that is patently angering, right. The other side of that anger, though, is that if you don’t have a way to process it productively, and also independently, it can keep you stuck, because it becomes very other focused, it is wanting that justice from somebody else it is wanting that debt to be repaid, through something that happens with or, or to another person and because those things are not within our control, and are also frequently not going to happen. 

That’s what makes it disempowering. It’s not the fact of being angry itself. It’s the fact of believing that the resolution of that anger is going to happen by anything other than your internal process, if that makes sense. That’s just something to think about. Anger is powerful, anger is good and if it is not productive, if it’s externally focused, what it looks like, what it feels like, is a lot of ruminating, just kind of churning in angry feelings that are sort of perpetual feeling like you can’t move past stuff, stewing. 

It also inhibits your growth. The path of growth in these situations is to be able to use this anger in productive ways to understand what it means and what it requires of you going forward is creating meaning from the experience and then using that to say, “Here’s what I would do, if that ever happened to me again. Here are the boundaries that I am now setting forevermore in response to this and using it really as a learning and personal development experience.”

That’s what we do with it. Okay, and then another thing that can be a major obstacle to creating closure and being able to move on is this sense, feeling, unmet need, of needing information from external sources. This can take a lot of different forms in a relationship loss situation, it can look like researching, it can be, you know, I’m basically getting my amateur PhD and my ex’s psychology, I’m reading all about attachment issues and narcissistic personality disorder and thinking about, you know, their unhappy childhood and like trying to put the pieces together about what was wrong with them. 

That can be interesting and can certainly be part of the healing process and you know, sometimes true, but it can also turn into this disempowering place where your attempt to make meaning to understand why things happened, the way that they happened, are coming from externally derived sources. 

This can happen through like researching but it can also happen if we need to feel like we need to get information from our ex or from our, you know, former employer or from whoever about what happened. What was the story? What was the problem? Why did things unfold the way they did? When did this start? The reason why it’s disempowering, again, is because, you know, you’re putting yourself in this vulnerable position by expecting that any answer would come from something outside of you. 

Again, it’s understandable, it’s, I think, hard for people to believe that this kind of work and this understanding can be self generated. Because, again, when people are going through a loss, the biological space is to not trust your own judgment, to question yourself, to put other people’s opinions above your own, right? But taking your power back means rejecting that idea and experimenting with embracing this new mindset, which is, I get to decide what happened, and what makes sense to me. 

I do also just want to validate another thing that can happen here, you know, in the context of a relationship loss or job loss is also not uncommon for people to feel genuinely blindsided by the loss. I mean, maybe you were in a relationship where you really thought that things were okay, and you did not see it coming when your partner was like, “Eh, I’m done.” Or if you got laid off or fired in a surprising way. I mean, there’s like a shock component or if you had a loved one, unexpectedly die, pass away. There is this very real shock component where it’s like, what just happened, where you didn’t know that this was coming down the pipeline, you had no idea and because of that, we’re not able to mentally or emotionally prepare yourself for this loss, you know, because like people who initiate breakups or divorces, they’re actually typically on quite a long off ramp.

I mean, they have a lot of time to be thinking about it, and reflecting and going back and forth. Even inhabiting a space of ambivalence for a very long time before finally tips in one direction or another. But, you know, if you were broken up with or if your partner asked you for a divorce, you did not have to have the benefit of doing that. It can feel like this whiplash experience, you know, and part of the trauma of this is having to essentially, rewrite the reality that you had been living in, you know, thinking, “How long had my ex been feeling this way before they broke up with me?” Right? 

That can be really one of the most hurtful and scary things about it is just knowing that this had been coming down the pipeline for a while, but I didn’t know that. Because it makes you call into question, the period of time that was happening prior to that like to be thinking about, “When did they start feeling like this? What was going on in the weeks and the months before? Were there signs? Were there things that happened that maybe I didn’t realize at the time that they were happening but that putting it into perspective now, I might interpret it differently, like, you know, they were kind of quiet at my birthday party. What was going on there?”

It’s making sense of things that really does require this reinterpretation of your lived experience, because maybe at the time again, if you had no idea what was going on, it calls into question, the way that you experienced reality, and that reality itself needs to be rewritten. That can turn into this impulse or this desire to have conversations with an ex or a boss or you know, other people to get them to tell you what was going on with them at the time what led to their decision, what it was, what it wasn’t, right, because we genuinely don’t know.

But again, why this becomes so disempowering and will keep you stuck is because the desire to have that information and, you know, yes probably would help you achieve closure if you got that sooner rather than later. But the reason that you aren’t going to get that is because of the relational dynamics themselves. For example, as often is the case, you know, your ex may not be even remotely interested, able or willing to have conversations with you that would be productive and helpful. That would assist you in your healing process.

It could be that they are simply not interested in processing this with you. And you know, rightfully, they don’t have to. But there are also a lot of reasons for them not wanting to do this with you. Maybe they’re done, and they’ve done their own closure work, and they just want to move on. Again, it isn’t their responsibility to help you do your emotional work, right? They’ve hopefully done theirs. But it can also be a carry-over of a relational dynamic that existed in the relationship well before the breakup. For example, as is often the case, you know, maybe one partner, maybe you, were interested in having authentic conversations, courageous conversations about important things, laying things out on the line, having heart to heart having contracts, constructive conflict, you know, doing the things that would have been healing and strengthening to the relationship. Right? 

That’s what heals and bonds and strengthens relationships. But maybe, as is often the case, your partner would never actually do that with you. Right? I mean, by definition, if you were blindsided by the ending of a relationship, your partner was not talking to you about really important, difficult things. Why would they do that now? Maybe they don’t even know how to stay in the ring with you and have a courageous conversation, maybe that was one of the biggest problems in the relationship. Maybe your partner was always kind of avoidant, or if you tried to talk about things, they would shut you down, they would get defensive, they wouldn’t deny, or they would disintegrate into an argument where you couldn’t actually have a conversation that, that allowed you to understand things and process things together.  That was true about the relationship.

But now here you are in the aftermath of the relationship, and if you want to do that with your partner now and feel like you’re stuck until you can have that with them. You are going to stay stuck because that didn’t happen, then not gonna happen now. You know, it’s really the empowering part here that I want you to take away is not feeling frustrated about what I’m saying. But rather, you know, looking at the alternative. Which is, you get to write your own story. You get to make sense of what happened. You get to put your own puzzle pieces back together.

Another reframe here that I’d like to offer you is that, you know, not being able to have a closure kind of confirmation conversation with your ex, it may actually be evidence that the relationship wasn’t sustainable. That in itself right there could be an important piece of information for you to put into your closure narrative. You know, that’s, maybe it’s just as well. But this ended because I was actually not in a relationship with somebody that was able to meet me in an authentic and emotionally mature way. 

We were not able to have important conversations about real and difficult things. I deserve to have that. That can be part of your narrative that I hope feels helpful and feels healing to you. Additionally, I think it’s also worth stating that there is a very real situation. Which many people going through a breakup or divorce or dealing with. Which is that your ex may have said things about their reasoning for a breakup or divorce that were not helpful, that were hurtful. and that maybe were even not true. That perhaps as is often the case did not make any sense to you. There are reasons for this because the fact is that people often will say things that don’t make a lot of sense in the context of a relationship loss. 

Again, you know, maybe it wasn’t a relationship, were there was already a lot of effective talking or communicating? You know, it’s so that maybe you got like mixed messages from your ex, which is often the case. Maybe your ex gave you false hope about reconciling. Or, you know, said things about their own experience that don’t quite square with you, which is really common. Because again, people who end relationships are often quite ambivalent to themselves.

I know this because I’ve talked to many of them. People will often feel guilty about ending a relationship. Even though they’re pretty sure that this isn’t the relationship for them, they have reasons for leaving. They don’t hate you. They’re not mad at you. They just. They don’t want to do it anymore.

But at the same time, I’ve also talked to many people who need to justify their desire to end a relationship with a victimization narrative. That in order for them to manage their own guilt, or be able to make a decision they need to make, the person that they’re going to break up with out to be this like, bad person in a lot of ways. You know, there’s many reasons for that it goes into black and white thinking, whatever. 

But, you know, these are all reasons why you should not be looking to your ex for information that will help you make sense of your own lived experience and that will be helpful. Because your ex may not even know what they’re really feeling, or fully understand why they did what they did, they may have developed their own narrative, their own story about reality that is functional and helpful for them, but that is not going to be functional and helpful for you. 

Also, that may not be an accurate representation of the reality that you experienced, going back to this idea that we are all creating our own reality, our own stories. By looking to your ex, or really any other person, for their story about what happened is so disempowering to you. Other people are not more insightful than you are, other people don’t have more information, necessarily, other people are also still trying to figure it out. For you to be substituting anybody’s opinion, feelings, perspectives, or reasoning for your own, will always create disempowerment and stuckness for you. 

These are all things that can and will keep you stuck and prevent you from creating closure. Now, let’s turn to the next piece of this, which is, you know, now that we understand all the things to not to do, right? Let’s talk about the things that will actually be helpful to you in creating your own closure, taking your power back, writing your own story, so that you can get what you need, what you genuinely and legitimately do need. But you know, in ways that allow you to do this on your own, rather than looking outside of yourself for this.

Okay, there’s actually one other thing that I need to mention about closure, before we move on, just really briefly, it can also be true that people will get stuck and unable to achieve “closure” because their desire for closure is actually a desire to open things back up again, with an ex or to have another chance at a job at a boss with a you know, relationship with a former employer with if anything, it is a fantasy, a desire to get external closure. Like we just need to meet and talk about what happened I need to have these questions answered, you know, XYZ can be your little brain rationalizing this very deep desire to reconnect that attachment bond.

Our brains will come up with reasons why we need to do all kinds of things that are easy to believe, easy to get tricked into and are just, you know, putting a rationalization on top of a very, very, very deep feeling that is coming from this totally other part of our brain. A desire or to reconnect to reattach, you know, feelings of love, feelings of missing someone, these are all very deep and powerful emotional states. 

They can, because they’re feelings like, they’re not often communicated to us as words, right, because they’re their feelings, they’re coming from the super deep part of us. What our thinking brain does is translate these big giant, deep feelings into reasons why we need to do something in order to kind of gratify these feelings. You know sometimes a wanting closure, the external closure actually means that you’re still helping for restitution resolution, you really want on a deep level to reconnect with your ex. The fantasy of closure conversation is just an opportunity to re-engage with them.  I just wanted to mention that because if you’re not consciously aware of that going on, it will also keep you stuck. 

For what it’s worth, I just wanted to say that out loud. If you do discover that, that is true about yourself, I would invite you to go and check out some other podcasts that I’ve done about the stages of healing after heartbreak, because it means that you’re just in an earlier stage of this than an earlier stage of the healing process that you need to move through before you will be able to to create the closure experience that you’re looking for. We need to go a couple steps back before we can go forward again. All right. 

Okay, let’s talk about how to take your power back and create closure. To do the work, it requires being honest with yourself and introspective and committing to creating a story that makes sense to you. There are different ways of doing this. If you are an external processor, you know that as many people are, we have sort of nebulous thoughts and feelings that are boiling around in our mind. It’s only until we put these into words, that they make sense to us. That is how we create our stories. That is one of the biggest benefits of going to therapy, or even coaching during a situation like this is having the opportunity to explain to somebody else what happened and how you feel about it.

It’s not about explaining it to them, it is about explaining it to yourself. You know, all therapy or coaching does in those moments is just give you 45 minutes of unstructured time and you know, an interested person who is listening to what you say, so that you have the chance to articulate this and put all this stuff into words.

You can also, if you are a writer, do this through journaling, you know, questions to be asking yourself and answering through journaling is “What questions do I have? What are literally the things that I would like to know about?” For example, “What happened to this relationship that started out so well? When did things start getting weird? When did my ex start feeling ambivalent about the relationship? When did their feelings about me start to change? What were the signs that maybe I interpret differently? Maybe I didn’t recognize what they were at the time. But in hindsight, you know, what, what was that?” Like, writing all these questions down in your journal, and then answering them for yourself, why did that relationship and here’s what I think happened, writing it all down. When did this change? You know what it was about two years ago after XYZ happened, right? 

Writing it all down and answering those questions for yourself. It’s important that you’re doing this because this is where empowerment comes from. You know, a lot about your own experience. You lived through it, and giving yourself the opportunity to tap into that wisdom and filter it through your own good judgment, your own values, your own meaning making process. That is what will close this gap.

It can be tempting to think. Well, I don’t have the correct information. But nobody has the correct information. Everybody is making up their own version of reality through their own stories like this. This isn’t math. You know what I mean? It is always the process of challenging yourself to think of it. What do I think is probably the answer? If I had to make up a reason for why this happened? Why do I think that making up something out of thin air?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked my clients that exact question. Okay, well, make up a reason. You just have to totally make up fiction, tell me a story. What they will tell me is a story that makes complete and total sense to them and me. Even though, two minutes before, they trusted their ability to be able to do that. It’s really about trusting yourself.

Remembering that it is your job to be articulating your own story out loud, either to a therapist, you could talk to yourself, that’s fine, or write it down. Then you get to practice validating it. Here’s what I think what happened. This is what makes sense to me. This, you know, what I’m totally right about this. An understanding that it’s through this creation of a story and this process of validating oneself.

This is what growth looks like, this is what healing looks like. Really understanding that through this process, there are so many different ways of looking at everything. In all complex situations, there are many, many, many different perspectives, different angles, that are all valid, and that are all true in their own way. You get to decide the story that you like the best, the one that feels the best for you, the one that has the most positive impact on the way that you feel, on how in control you feel, on what the story means about you and your self concept and the rest of your life. Like when you create a story that brings you feelings of control and empowerment and inner peace and hope for the future. That is the correct story. That’s the right one, that is also the process of achieving closure. 

It’s really that simple. Other ways of supporting this meaning making process in addition to verbalizing it writing down, you know, a story that makes sense for you practicing it can also be closure, creating rituals that finalize the ending, for some people, you know, I’ve had clients who have burned their wedding dress or set all their old photos on fire or deleted all the files that they had on their computer with pictures and stuff. I mean, you know, whatever it is, there’s a finalization, you know, blocking the ex, taking their information out of your phone, there are a lot of ways of creating that for yourself that can support your sense of “This is over, I am figuring out why it happened.” Also, being able to kind of create a milestone in time, that is an official ending, that can also be very helpful to our mental and emotional health in these situations. 

Then the other thing that I want you to understand is that as you are creating your own inner narrative, you are having the opportunities to reflect on what you are needing, what you’re feeling, what you’re wanting, and how you can give those things to yourself, like, “What do I want my ex to say to me right now?” “You are right, or I’m sorry”, or “That was wrong of me.” You know, what are those things? Now, how can I say those things to myself? How can I validate myself? How can I support myself and my own perspective, it’s not just taking your power back.

It’s also taking your responsibility back, you know, by deciding that you’re in charge of your own story, and your own emotional wellness that if you need to hear something from someone else, if you’re needing to feel soothed or loved or validated or important or recognized.

It is your job, to be giving those things to yourself actively and regularly. To create that for yourself, you know, we do this by the way: we talk to ourselves through the kinds of relationships we are having with ourselves the way we are taking care of ourselves through our own inner narrative through our mindset through our behaviors, right. It can be anxiety provoking to think about this and there can definitely be a learning curve, because we don’t have opportunities to learn how to do this until we’re thrust into these kinds of situations.

I mean, for many people, this is the first time when they’ve been challenged to start building these skills. This is where this amazing growth opportunity comes from you, particularly if you get connected with a good therapist, or a coach, who can help you be acquiring these skills and learning how to do this for yourself. Because once you do, it is incredibly liberating, not just for the process of getting past a breakup or a divorce, you know, not creating closure. It is the development of skills, to manage all kinds of different life experiences, and to learn how to take care of yourself mentally and emotionally, in all kinds of situations. For me, this is often one of the most powerful and transformational gifts that my clients gain from going through challenging life experiences. A breakup, a job loss, that many things is that at some point along this healing journey, they finally realize that, you know, if I’m going to get better, if I’m going to feel better, if I’m going to gain emotional freedom, if I’m going to get past this, here’s what needs to be happening in my own head, my own inner voice, my own inner narrative.

I need to be managing my feelings in a different way. I need to challenge and shift my unhelpful thoughts in a new way. I need to be developing these skills, setting healthy boundaries with myself, with others. You know, that are genuinely in my best interests. If I’m going to feel better, this is the work that I have to do. It’s not, you know, figuring out how to cope with a situation or figuring out how to manage it.

But it’s really, it’s through adversity that we often have the opportunity to grow. It’s because of going through difficult life experiences that we can practice and develop these skills, and new ways of being and maybe for the first time in our lives. This is how we grow. 

The cool thing is that once you do this, once you figure this out and begin putting these practices are in place within yourself, these are yours to keep, You can bring them into any situation you like, have a new relationship, a new job. I mean, what we’re talking about right now is emotional intelligence. It’s emotional insurance, maturity, it’s self awareness, self regulation. Nobody can ever take those away from you once you have acquired them. And so because you earned them, and this is just really amazing and powerful work on so many different levels. I’m excited for you to do this. You know, this is a discussion about closure, certainly but finding these growth opportunities through adversity is so essential to your long term wellness.

I just wanted to leave you with that idea. I hope that this discussion has been helpful for you, I hope it’s given you a new perspective, new insight into yourself  and also some direction on what to do with this. As I mentioned, there are certainly additional resources for you on this topic and others related to breakup recovery, coping with job loss, emotion, emotional wellness, personal growth, on the blog, growingself.com you could come over.

Find the blog and podcast and then start looking around in the different collections that I’ve prepared for you to find more articles written by myself or other counselors and coaches on our team, Spotify playlists of podcasts that I’ve put together for you and I sincerely hope that you take advantage of all those resources because I make them for you, and it’ll hurt my feelings if you don’t use them. Come on over and check them out. I’ll be back in touch with you next time with another episode. In the meantime, here’s more Sofia Bolt — sofiabolt.bandcamp.com. Take care.

Divorce and Breakup Recovery Resources

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