Letter to the Editor: There is no closure in the grieving process | SummitDaily.com

Letter to the Editor: There is no closure in the grieving process

Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman

Following nearly every shooting in our country, there has been some mention of the need for “closure” for the survivors. This notion that somehow there can be some stopping point to the grief process and that people will be able to put grief forever aside and move on is one of the saddest, baddest ideas onto which the media has latched and now manages to perpetuate.

When I was an Air Force chaplain stationed at the Air Force Academy, I came in contact with a Jewish couple stationed at a nearby base whose daughter was dying of cancer. I was not the rabbi who conducted the funeral when the 7-year-old died. The family previously had befriended another rabbi, an Army Jewish chaplain, who flew in and led the service.

When a year had passed, I called the couple and suggested that it was time for them to move on. It was one of the greatest mistakes of my rabbinate. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from the Army rabbi.  He explained that different people grieve at different rates and that what I had done was to interrupt, confound and stress the grieving family; and that I needed to butt out and learn a great deal more about the grief process.

Dr. Kubler Ross whose book, On Death and Dying, identified four stages of grief. She asserted that acceptance is grief’s final stage, but this term does not mean that a person is ever finally done with grieving and has reached closure. There is no such thing.

We carry our dead with us. They are a part of our psyche and it is normal for us to continue to grieve them even if the pain subsides.  But let’s put the notion of “closure” to rest.  It benefits us not at all.

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