Seeking closure is almost always a strictly personal journey. In fact, I would personally add that I don’t believe it exists with regards to grief. However, there can be times when a traumatic breakup can cause both the dumper and the dumpee an undue amount of pain. Once the initial trauma passes, and emotions normalize, the desire to tie loose ends in an objective way can take over.
Contacting an ex for closure means something different to everyone. Do you intend to reconcile, or is your desire for closure born of guilt? If your feelings are unclear, contacting an ex to let them know how you feel can backfire. Further aggravating long-term resentment and delaying healing.
More questions than answers
When contacting an ex, the need for clarity and transparency is paramount. Unless you can summarize concisely (in a sentence or two) the reason why you are reaching out, you risk igniting a downward spiral of stress and over-analysis. Make sure you don’t substitute answers with even more questions by being direct and concise. This means:
- Not letting fear or pride get in the way. An example would be sending a neutral message in order to gauge their frame of mind before approaching the subject of closure.
- Not being overly apologetic or confrontational. Be prepared for anything before contacting. Breakups are one of the most powerful life-changing experiences, there is no telling where they take people. Honesty is your best defence against scepticism and defensiveness. Keep it simple.
- Don’t insist. If your attempts at contact are met with indifference and silence, that too is an answer.
Oh hey, remember me?
Being direct does not mean knocking on their door out of the blue. First contact should ideally be as comfortable and objective as possible. While not overly desirable, by initiating an instant messenger chat or a composing a concise email you run far fewer risks of being thought disrespectful and heedless of their feelings and space.
While body language and the small inflections in voice and tone are admittedly far better indicators of feelings than text ever will be, let contact escalate naturally (if it heads in that direction).
Does closure really exist?
I mentioned earlier my scepticism regarding seeking closure, especially by seeking it outside of our own minds. Simply put, I am convinced that closure is a myth.
My thoughts are echoed by sociologist Nancy Berns who summarizes the culture of closure in the excellent article published on Boston (dot-com) called The myth of closure:
Our reliance on the concept may even do us a disservice. Not only does closure mischaracterize how most people handle grief, but, she suggests, the pressure to achieve it might actually make loss more difficult.
At the root of my concern lie the five stages of grief (also known as the Kubler-Ross cycle) which dictate that grief ends with acceptance, not the imagined cliff-like idea of closure. And the only way towards attaining acceptance is by weathering denial, anger and sadness.
This is not to say that contacting an ex is universally a bad idea. Coming to terms with the past can greatly catalyse forgiveness and healing. But it remains a double-edged sword. While it can potentially ease the pain (especially in the short-term) it can also confuse and validate our fears.
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