It comes to me at night.
Sometimes I’m up late, trying to finish a project that I should not have procrastinated on. I swear I shut the WiFi off so that I can work, but then a browser window opens, a fresh email ready to be written, with their address appearing as if by magic in the right bar. It giggles in my ear.
Sometimes I’m with someone else, someone I care for, trying to just relax and be present in the moment. It sneaks up, taps my shoulder, and whispers: “You should call them. You should call them now.”
Sometimes I’m trying to fall asleep, almost comfortable, but not quite. The day has been long, and I’m ready for the land of dreams when it grabs hold of my throat and shakes me like an animal. “They’re out there,” it screams. “They get on with their lives. They don’t even remember you.”
Sometimes I’m driving, the lights from other vehicles dancing in my rear-view like a ghostly fire. It grabs the wheel and jerks the car toward the wrong exit, demanding that we go, right now, to where they are; it doesn’t matter how late it is, or that there is no address to drive to, or that the end destination is across the continent. It is hungry, and it will not be satisfied.
The desire for closure is the worst kind of haunting. There’s no way to tell when it will arise, or how — your wounds may have healed perfectly, or they might have festered. The original hurts might have passed, or you might still be carrying them around, a broken bone that has never properly set. The people involved in the original hurting may be dead, or they may still be very much alive. Regardless of the particulars, the end result is always the same — being restless and defensive and angry, unable to move on from the desire to have the last word.
But here’s the catch: like any other ghost, the desire for closure is impossible to kill. Ask anybody who has pressed an ex for their reasons for breaking up, whether they were pleased to hear why the other person did not love them anymore. Ask the person who interrogated their childhood bully about the reasons they tormented them, if they got “closure” from it. Ask the disowned children how being vulnerable with their abusive parents worked out for them. Chances are, they will be even more depressed than before, and that’s because closure doesn’t really exist.
This is what we expect: The person who hurt us (or who embodies everything that hurt us) will break down in remorse. They will sob about how wrong they were, how right we were, and how sorry they are for what happened. They will beg our forgiveness and say they do not deserve it. And we will give it to them, because we can finally afford to be kind.
In other words, we get reassurance about our own innocence, and we give absolution that the other person has not tried to earn and definitely does not deserve.
Here’s what I have to say: fuck that.
Fuck basing your healing on whether you “deserved it” or not. Shit happens to everyone — it’s random, it’s unfair, it’s disgusting. Your character does not make what happened to you more or less horrible.
Fuck wasting your life waiting for an abuser to apologize. On the off chance that they come around, so what? That person has a proven track record of hurting you and a vested interest in being seen as the “good guy.” Everything that comes from their mouths is now tainted.
Fuck hurting other people because you did not get “closure.” Most of us have ghosts that bother us when we let our guards down. We grit our teeth and find other things to do; we close the browser window, we put the phone away, we keep driving home, we tell our loved ones how much they mean to us. If you always bring your ghosts everywhere, then you are not ready to have close friendships yet. Focus on your healing, instead of demanding that others do it for you.
We don’t put our lives on hold until we get closure; we get on with the full understanding that we may never receive it, and that is the end of it. It hurts, it sucks, it’s unfair… but it’s better than the limbo of waiting for an opportunity to forgive someone who does not want or deserve it.
Fuck closure. Live your life instead.