door partway open

Closure – Why Do We Need It?

“Closure” is one of many psychobabble buzz words of recent times. I Googled “why closure is so important” and got almost 6 million results!

Why do we feel the need to have some kind of closure with the past before we can move on?

It sounds like it should be a complex issue, but the answer is really fairly simple. We human beings are programmed to try to understand our environment. We aren’t all that content with the concept of “it is what it is.” We want to know why it is what it is.

door partway open

We humans have to know what’s behind the door, before we can close it and move on. (photo by Eleassar, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

This trait is extremely important to our survival and our development as a species. Indeed, it is probably the single most important factor in why we are the dominant species on the planet! By figuring out why something happened, we can either make it happen again if it was a good thing, or try to avoid having it happen again if it wasn’t so great. This need to understand the what, how and why is often the stimulant for human ingenuity and invention as well.

When we understand what’s going on we can make adjustments, come up with solutions. When we are left in the dark, we are uneasy.

The topic of closure popped into my head as a good subject to talk about this week because I just read JoAnn Bassett’s latest release, Kaua’i Me a River. This book’s a bit more serious than the others in her Islands of Aloha mystery series (although it still has its humorous moments). It is a very compelling story. I believe it’s my favorite of the series (and I’ve liked them all!)

The main character, Pali Moon, is minding her own business, trying to ignore her thirty-fifth birthday, when she receives a not very informative letter from a lawyer requesting her presence at a meeting to discuss an “urgent family matter.” That letter reopens some old wounds and Pali (pronounced Polly) becomes determined to find out what really happened to her mother, who died when Pali was just five years old. She risks a lot to find out what happened and why… pursuing that need for closure.

book cover of Kaua'i Me a River

We may not always like what we find out, but unanswered questions from our past tend to leave us psychologically incomplete. For better or worse, we humans need to understand the past in order to put it to rest and move on.

Have you had times when a lack of closure has left you feeling incomplete or unable to move on?

While you’re pondering that question, take a look at JoAnn’s new release, Kaua’i Me a River. Also the first book in her series, Maui Widow Waltz, is FREE today through Thursday on Amazon!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

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  • Reply
    Marcy Kennedy
    April 29, 2013 at 11:09 am

    I’m definitely someone who needs closure, and I think for me it is because I want to learn from it. If I don’t know why something went right, it might have been a fluke. If I don’t know why something went wrong, I can’t take steps to protect against it, and the fear of it tags along into the future.

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      April 29, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      YES, Marcy! That’s spot on. If we don’t figure out why something went wrong, it leaves us anxious, at least on an unconscious level, that a similar bad experience will happen again.

  • Reply
    K.B. Owen
    April 29, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Cool topic, today, Kass. Sometimes we envision closure only going a certain way – such as confronting someone who hurt you and make them apologize, or something like that, but I’ve come to discover, at least for myself, that something can be closure in a form you didn’t imagine but if you’re open to it, it can work just as well.

    I remember there was a very angry girl in my high school who was a bully. She didn’t go out of her way to pick on me, but when we ran across each other, she did – sort of opportunistically. I wasn’t deeply scarred from the experience or terrified of her, but the incidents weren’t all that pleasant, either, as you might imagine.

    So I was quite surprised to find that after our 30yr high school reunion, when Facebook connections really started to pick up, she sought me out and sent a friend request. I went ahead and accepted it, though I really didn’t participate in her timeline – not on purpose, but you know how Facebook picks and chooses what you see. The funny thing is, she’s been very friendly and responsive to my posts, especially the ones related to my book release.

    For some reason, I’ve found closure in that. 🙂


  • Reply
    Kassandra Lamb
    April 29, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Excellent point, Kathy. Closure doesn’t have to be some big dramatic showdown.

    I had a similar experience, sort of. Junior high school was horrible for me. We had just moved so I was in a new school and somehow I ended up the kid that was ostracized and everybody picked on. That did leave some scar tissue.

    Years later I ran into a girl from my junior high. She had been one of the quieter kids and was reasonably popular. I’d always assumed that she and my other classmates thought their junior high experience was just fine. When she realized where she knew me from, she said, “You went to Ridgely, didn’t you? Weren’t those the worst years of your life!”

    Epiphany time. I wasn’t the only one who hated those awful gawky years! It made a huge difference for me.

  • Reply
    Coleen Patrick
    April 29, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I know I need closure when it comes to work, like returning emails, phone calls. If I can’t settle something soon, i like to at least note that I’m working on it, but it will typically stay with me in the back of my mind until I get it done. Housework, yes and no. Depends on whether or not I can eliminate a particular job’s importance–in my mind. 🙂
    Great topic!

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      April 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      Thanks, Coleen! You know I hadn’t even thought about that in terms of closure, but you’re right. I refer to it as being a “finisher” and I am one too, big time. I’ve got to finish what I start, otherwise it bugs the hell out of me until I do.

  • Reply
    April 29, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Closure is a topic near and dear to me. I came from a family of secret-keepers (didn’t we all?) and now that my parents are deceased I realize how much it bothers me that I will never know the answers to questions I’ve had since childhood. I wonder if seeking closure is culture-driven, that is, I wonder if some cultures value seeking closure more than others. Has anyone done any research on this? I also wonder if revenge-seeking isn’t a form of closure. Or is it something else? Any ideas, Kass?

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      April 30, 2013 at 11:38 pm

      That’s got to be frustrating, JoAnn, to never be able to get the answers. Hmm, interesting question about culture. I’ve never seen anything on this in the psychology literature but I’ll keep an eye out.

      I think revenge is definitely linked to closure. People think it will give them closure but I’m not sure it always does.

      One of my favorite lines is: the best revenge is to live well!

  • Reply
    Debra Eve
    May 3, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    “We aren’t all that content with the concept of ‘it is what it is.'” And different people accept this to different degrees. My husband, for instance, MUST have closure. Me, not so much. If we have an argument, he’ll pester me all night until we come up with a definitive resolution to the problem. I prefer to sleep on it 🙂

    With difficult relationships in general, I’ll turn my back and move on, sometimes too quickly I’ve realize in retrospect. Fascinating subject, Kassandra, and the book has me intrigued.

    • Reply
      Kassandra Lamb
      May 5, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      Hey, Debra, thanks so much for stopping by! You are so right. There are definitely individual differences with this.

      I’m more like your husband. I have a lot of trouble letting something go until I feel like it’s resolved. So much so that I sometimes make the situation worse. But I’m working on being a little more balanced about it.

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