As TEDxWomen 2012 approaches, our thoughts keep drifting to this year’s theme, The Space Between. One moment this idea seems very specific, and the next, infinite. To keep engaging with this seeming paradox, we wanted to share with you a powerful talk from TEDxDesMoines, which took place on July 15, 2012.
Nancy points out how in all of our lives, we have a space of joy and a space of grief. The space of grief, needless to say, is not as fun to occupy as the space of joy. And many of us live with the pressure that we should be in the space of joy all the time, no exception, or something’s wrong with us. Enter “closure” — this deceptively simple notion that if we tie up all of our “bad” feelings with a bow, we can hop right on over from grief to joy.
Closure’s a pretty common thing to be desired, whether it’s following the death of a loved one, a break up or an act of violence. Nancy points out that it takes many different shapes: peace and forgiveness, revenge and vengeance, remembering or forgetting. But these differing forms contain one common thread, one shared promise: “An end to our grief, a finality to something bad that happened.”
It’s a promise that sounds pretty great — it just happens to be an illusion. So with radical commonsense, Nancy asks: “When bad things happen, do we need closure sumo wrestling suits? My answer is no… Closure doesn’t even exist. It’s a made-up concept that we use to talk about loss and grief. But seeking it can do more harm than good.”
And so she offers an alternative: “You don’t need closure to heal.” She encourages us to counter the illusion that our emotions are split, to see that actually, we possess the capacity to carry joy and grief at the same time. And to resist the temptation to label one emotion “good” and another “bad”, as emotions don’t come with a particular value judgement — we’re the ones who brand them as such.
What about when we see others in deep suffering? Nancy encourages us to “meet them where they’re at.” Most important: listen. And listen without offering answers, judgements and fixes, resisting the understandable desire to pull them out of it, to make them better. The same goes for your relationship with yourself: to meet yourself where you’re at. Throughout Nancy’s talk, she offers examples of how this won’t lead to closure, but just may lead to healing. “It’s about learning how to learn to live with our loss. It’s about learning how to carry our grief in a way that leaves rooms for the joy and love. The joy and the love from our past and the joy and the love that lies ahead yet.”
This opens up a new way of understanding our internal geography. So that joy is not this wildly far away place when you’re in grief, as we all inevitably are at some point or another. Instead: “Joy and grief, that space between’s not so far apart. It’s actually intertwined. And I know that can be scary. I get that. But it can also give you freedom. There’s freedom in knowing you can carry joy and grief together. There’s freedom in knowing you don’t need closure to heal.”
What are your experiences with closure and healing? Have you experienced your spaces of joy and grief as separate or intertwined?