The number one thing a client wants out of a relationship of any type (family, romantic, platonic), that ended poorly is closure. In asking my clients what they mean when they say closure (I know a super therapist question to ask) I get very similar results. In fact, I find that the answers typically fall into these two categories:
1. I wish I could tell this person off.
This tends to be the most common with my adolescent clients. There is something so satisfying in the thought of being able to really let someone have it. And by ‘it’ I mean a mouthful of the most heinous insults a person can think of. Not only does this rarely happen, but it rarely leads to the actual satisfaction. It typically leads to more drama. After all, people do not tend to take being called out very well, even if we think it is deserved.
2. I wish they would apologize to me.
I’m going to make a call back to my last blog post right here. The only person you can control is yourself. No matter how obvious it seems to you that you deserve an apology, there is no way to force someone else to give one to you. Expecting an apology will most likely lead to disappointment. If you are waiting for someone to reach out to you to apologize before you can get closure, you are never going to get the closure you want.
Relationships in TV and movies tend to get wrapped up in pretty bows. The son of the villain gets to tell the villain off and even go help the hero. The final battle is between a protagonist and their former friend. The abusive spouse gets their just desserts. The former bad guy sacrifices themselves for the hero and apparently all of their sins are erased. If the relationship isn't wrapped up then that is just what is going to fuel season 2.
But that just doesn't happen in real life. We don't get to square off against the people that hurt us. We don't get to have that smooth comeback, that sassy one-liner that is just so powerful it shuts that other person up forever. Maybe when we are thinking about what we would say to the person in the shower, but in actual practice, that doesn't tend to happen. We get tongue tied. Our emotions get in the way of our comebacks. We certainly don't battle the person in an epic magical showdown. Yet we all strive for this catharsis.
So with all that being said, what's a person to do? When you want closure what's a person to do?
First off, ask yourself what you have control over in the situation. Things within your control include if you feel you can have a conversation with that person and what you say to that person. If you don't feel like you can have a conversation or you know deep down that the conversation won't go the way you want it to go, then I have another question for you. How much mental Realestate are you willing to let this person take up? If that person is taking up more of your brain than you want, then it's time to kick them out.
In the end, closure isn’t something that other people can give you. It’s something that you have to let yourself have by being willing to let that toxic relationship go.