A Summary of Closure

When it comes to the end of a relationship, the loss of a loved one, or even a national tragedy, we are often told we need “closure.” School children are told to find closure after a shooting. A nation seeks closure after 9/11. Mourners search for closure after a funeral, and family members want it following a homicide. Families of missing persons search for closure, as do Katrina survivors and other victims of natural disasters. People are told to find closure after their pets die. Closure is a new emotional state, one that people supposedly need to find in order to heal after a loss. But do people need closure? Or is it even possible to find closure after bad things happen? Why has talk about closure become so popular?

Closure has become a central part of sales talks in the funeral, grief, relationship advice, and memorialization industries as well as a political argument for issues ranging from the death penalty to roadside memorials. Closure provides an engaging behind-the-scenes look at how and why the concept of closure is used to sell products and politics.

But what is closure? There is no agreed upon answer. Closure has been described as justice, peace, healing, acceptance, forgiveness, moving on, resolution, answered questions, or revenge. And how are you supposed to find this closure? People try to find closure by planting trees, acquiring memorial tattoos, forgiving murderers, watching killers die, talking to offenders, writing letters, burning letters, burning wedding dresses, burying wedding rings, casting spells, taking trips to Hawaii, buying expensive pet urns, committing suicide, talking to dead people, reviewing autopsies, and planning funerals. And this is just a partial list.

Talking about closure limits how we think about grief and fails to capture the experiences of many who grieve over death or other losses. Some people struggle to meet social expectations for closure when privately they resent the idea or, worse, they wonder whether something is wrong with them because they do not have closure.

Nancy Berns explores these issues and their ramifications in her timely book, Closure. Readers can use this book to untangle the web of closure and help understand the emotional and social experiences resulting from grief and loss.

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Table Of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

Chapter 1—Seeking Closure

Chapter 2—Closure and Its Tangled Meanings

Chapter 3—The Walking Wounded and Myth Slayers: Those Who Say There Is No Closure

Chapter 4—From Embalming to Teddy Bear Urns: Selling Closure in the Twenty-First-Century Death Care Industry

Chapter 5—The Assurance Business: Creating Worry and Selling Closure

Chapter 6—Bury the Jerk: Symbolic Death and Mock Vengeance as Relationship Advice

Chapter 7—Should You Watch an Execution or Forgive a Murderer? Closure Talk and Death Penalty Politics

Chapter 8—Forgetting versus Remembering: Politics of Mourning, Sacred Space, and Public Memory

Chapter 9—Framing Grief beyond Closure

Notes, Bibliography and Index