The Need for Closure
As I watch teacher after teacher on Facebook close their classrooms, parades of graduates waving from their cars, and read obituaries of people who are unable to celebrate the passing of life without services, I am continually reminded how this pandemic has forced us to move on without closure. Monumental changes in our life’s journey are usually marked with ceremonies, gatherings, religious traditions and other interactions that allow us to say goodbye to one chapter in our life and make way for a new one. Unfortunately social distancing has forced us to try to move on without being able to do so. How, then, are our we able to achieve closure?
I am not an expert in psychology or counseling by any stretch of the imagination but I have been doing a lot of reading around this subject, just to face my own hang-ups with lack of closure. 2020 has been a challenging year in Merle Kingdom, for more reasons than just the obvious ones, and closure has been one of those topics that I have literally spent hours thinking, writing, and talking to a therapist about!
This is what I have learned so far:
- Certain personalities crave closure more than other personalities. Yes, there may be a tendency for some of us type A, planning type people to desire it more. Other people are able to box it up, pack it away, and face the future with no need to hang in the past. That may have its own flaws in terms of handling emotions, but it sounds great right about now, doesn’t it?? In the same way, times of stress may also stir feelings of needing more closure. This also makes sense to me, wouldn’t you agree? I might be feeling out of control in a lot of areas, like toilet paper shortages and tech fatigue, so I need to at least know and plan for a proper good-bye.
- Focusing on what I CAN control rather than what I CAN’T control is important to move forward. There are so many things out of my control right now – closure being only one of them – that it does me no good to perseverate about them. Think about all of the parts of this pandemic that are completely out of your control – not being able to interact socially with more than 10 people, having to wear a mask, not being able to hug or high five your students, not being able to walk around a mall or go to the zoo! As I am writing this, the list of things out of my control could literally be endless and it is so easy to get caught up in it! So I try to picture those things as clouds moving past me. I acknowledge their presence and let them move on by. Some days there are more clouds than others. But I know for sure that they will pass. I may not be able to control those clouds, but I certainly can control the interactions that I am having down here on earth in my own home – with my children, colleagues, or students.
- Writing it down has also been a great tool to let go of my expectations of what should have been. It allows me to confront it and leave it there on the paper. I know that not everyone is a writer and I really wasn’t one either until this year. But I have always gotten pleasure from writing a to-do list and crossing things off. In some ways, my journal has just gotten to be a larger to-do list that includes things within my control that I can cross off, and things that are not within my control that I have to let drift by. Either way, that concrete act has let my brain slow down. And that is SO necessary for survival in a quarantined Merle Kingdom.
- Time – the great healer, or so everyone keeps telling me. Everyone needs some time to mourn. For people dealing with the loss of a loved one, it may be reminiscing about happy times, allowing for some tears and dedicating time to grieve. For those of us who are mourning the passage of time with our students, a year ending so abruptly, or seniors who are moving on without a proper farewell, we need some time to feel sad as well. How do we make that time productive so that we achieve some amount of peace in an altered environment? Can you reminisce about funny things that happened earlier this school year with your colleagues or family? Can you spend some time with those students in a virtual environment just sharing the best parts of this school year? And can you spend some time in self-reflection pondering what you learned this year? How did the challenges of this year actually make you a stronger teacher, and a more resilient person?
I wish I could give each of you a list of 5 things to do and cross off so that you can head into the summer with a happy ending, a neat bow on your box for 2019-2020, and a free and happy heart. Unfortunately the only person that can provide that for you is you! There are no set lists for closure for any of us. But I am pleased to hear that it is possible to achieve that sense of peace even in the most extraordinary of circumstances. And it is also reassuring to know that I am not the only one struggling with it. As always, we are in this together. The spring of 2020 will come to an end and we will emerge better people because of it – better teachers, better parents, better friends, and hopefully, better human beings. I wish you well on your quest for closure and hope that the lessons you learned stay with you as you journey forward, and most importantly, I wish you peace.