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Closure Isn’t Easy

Forgive and forget; it’s an old term of advice that many well-meaning people will throw at you when you are unable to let go of a past hurt. You are told that you will never get closure on your past until you are able to be strong enough to forgive the person or the people who hurt you. Because once you forgive someone for hurting you, you will be happy, right? You will finally get that closure that you so desperately want and from that moment on, that chapter of your life is closed, never to be thought about again. All because you were able to find it in your heart to forgive the person who hurt you.

That would be awesome if it were true.

I have struggled for closure on my past for as long as I can remember and have heard the same forgiveness speech from everyone who has come into my life. I have to forgive Mom for what she did to me or I will never be able to move forward in my life. I have to forgive Mom because it would be a good example for my children. I have to forgive Mom so I can have peace. And I’m sure if you are struggling with letting the past go like I have, you have heard the words “closure” and “forgiveness” hundreds of times from a well-meaning therapist.

Closure and forgiveness is easier said than done.

Maybe I’m wrong here or maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but I feel that forgiving someone for hurting you is sometimes more for their benefit than for yours. Imagine tracking down your high school bully ten or twenty years after you graduate. You track them down because you want to forget the hurt that this person caused you and you are at a place in your life where you are ready to close that door and try to forgive that person for what they did.

So you meet this person, you talk, you cry, whatever, and then you leave. You probably feel a thousand percent better than you did yesterday and you walk around the rest of the day with your head held high, knowing that you did the right thing. You took everyone’s advice, you truly forgave this person and you can finally move on with your life.

Then the next day comes and you are triggered or you have a flashback to the time when you were bullied. You smell something that reminds you of the day that your bully cornered you in the locker room and you remember the awful things that they said to you. You hear an old song from your childhood and you remember where you were and how horrible things were for you at that time.

And if you are like me, you get angry at yourself and at the person you thought you forgave just the day before. That door was supposed to be closed! Forgiving someone who hurt you is supposed to fix everything, help you get over your past, give you closure, and make you a better person, right? Why does the bully get to be forgiven and walk away guilt free while you still continue to struggle with the aftermath of what they did to you?

Because you can’t erase memories, no matter how hard you try.

When I tried to forgive my mother for the abuse she inflicted on me as a child, I had all of the same hopes and dreams of getting closure and shutting the door on my past and of being able to go a day without being reminded in some way of the pain she put me through. But to my chagrin, even after I found it in my heart to try and forgive, the triggers never stopped, the flashbacks were still there, and the nightmares still came. It made me so angry to see Mom act as though my childhood had never happened while I continued to struggle with the pain she put me through as a child every single day of my adult life.

No matter how hard I tried; I couldn’t erase my awful memories; the awful memories that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. And Mom walking around, guilt free, only made me trigger more and become angrier and angrier each day.

So what now? Am I doomed to a life of pain and hurt because I can’t truly forgive my abuser and get closure from my past? Am I going to be angry the rest of my life because I can’t erase my memory and forget the horrible things that were done to me?

No. I am not doomed because I have learned to forgive myself for feeling the way that I feel. I forgive myself for having the flashbacks and triggers. I forgive myself for being angry. I stopped feeling guilty for my past and I understand that there is nothing I could have done to change what happened to me. I stopped carrying the entire weight of everything that happened to me and accepted that while I could not change my past; I was certainly in control of my present.

I will never forget what my mother did to me and I am reminded constantly of the abuse I went through when I get flashbacks or triggers throughout the day. I don’t think I can ever truly forgive my mother for what she did to me and I may never get closure on that horrible chapter of my life. But I can forgive myself. I can forgive myself for being human and remembering bad things that happened to me. I can forgive myself for carrying guilt around about my childhood and letting it affect my present. And I can forgive myself for not being able to finally get closure on my past.

Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.

Closure Isn’t Easy

Sarah Burleton NY Times bestselling author

Victoria Gigante Writes For Psych CentralSarah Burleton was born in a little town in Illinois to a very emotionally disturbed woman. Her first book, her child abuse memoir "Why Me," spent 26 weeks on the New York Times and the print version is endorsed by David Pelzer, author of "A Child Called It." Sarah is now realizing her goal in becoming an ambassador for abused children and adult survivors and is currently conducting workshops and seminars throughout the state. Her message of strength over adversity and her story will help counselors, teachers, and other professionals identify signs of abuse and learn ways to establish trust with an abused child.

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APA Reference
, . (2017). Closure Isn’t Easy. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Feb 2017
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