Today I am talking about closure and how unanswered questions can keep us stuck in a loop, unable to move forward. I am sharing my experiences from early 2023, of how I was affected by unanswered questions during a breakup.
Disclaimer: This is a personal account of my experiences and is in no way intended to replace professional support from a trained physician or therapist.
My Story: Seeking Closure Saturday morning, I'm woken up by my sisters cat pouncing at my feet. I'd stayed over as I am taking her and her husband to the airport. They are going to New York for her birthday.
My sister has an eye for interior design, her house is stunning. The type of house that is Instagram worthy, where thousands of followers would try and emulate her style. I'm sat in the living room while she frantically does last minute packing. She tells me the weather in New York has varied from 19C to 29C and how do you pack for that? Answer, take everything.
I drive a small hatchback. I've been living out of my boot for over a month while I move from place to place. The house I own feels like a prison of memories, insulting reminders of what I have lost, so I don't stay there anymore. Anyway, my car is already chaos with all of my things that I'm driving around with me but what I wasn't expecting is the sheer amount of luggage my sister would be karting to New York for a one week trip.
I had to put two seats down just to fit the largest of the three suitcases in my car. My car was full to bursting, I couldn't see through the rear view mirror. My sisters poor husband, squashed in the back, feeling unwell. We'd been driving for about 10 minutes and my sister asked, "do we have the passports?". Please don't make me turn back.
Driving is usually my solace, I enjoy the open road. But not at the moment. This is when the memories and thoughts of unanswered questions enter my mind. I've taken to blasting angry, heavy metal through the stereo but I didn't think this would be appropriate since it was 9.00am and certainly not to my sisters taste.
I'd spent most of the drive trying not to burst out crying. I kept seeing road signs for my latest ex's hometown. Can I not go anywhere without being reminded of him? We eventually get to the airport and I bid my sister and husband farewell and a happy trip. Before I even reach the ticket gate at the exit, I'm heaving crying in my car.
This is all I wanted; I wanted to take a holiday with my person. I wanted what my sister has. I want to bicker with my person about why he had packed the coat I was planning to wear today into the suitcase, I want to worry about whether we packed the passports or have the right plug adapter.
I was under the illusion that I had found my person. But the reality was, I'd spent years waiting patiently for a man who, in the end, didn't commit. A man who wouldn't even take a trip with me. On my good days, I don't have too much of a problem with self worth and I do think I have a lot to offer a partner. So, what was I doing so wrong that after years of knowing me, would someone not want to go on holiday with me? The answer is, and always will be, he is a commitment phobic, it definitely wasn't a reflection of me but a product of his own issues. But still, the thought spiral ruined my day.
I tried to work and failed. I tried to spend time with friends and failed. I tried to decorate my house, failed again. I even bailed on a night out. Today was not my day. While I'm not an advocate for isolating oneself, I do think sometimes we need to sit with the feeling. So, I submitted and went to stay with my parents.
Skip ahead a little, it's now Sunday morning. I wake up crying; oh, this is a fantastic start. I feel both devastated and angry at myself. I laid in the bath, crying in pain, thinking about him. Angry because I know whoever's bed he is in this morning, he certainly isn't grieving the loss of me from his life.
I am desperately seeking closure however I'm plagued unanswered questions and by the dissonance between what was and where we ended up. How could he tell me he had deep feelings for me one month and then vanish the next? He cared for me, but doesn't care for me anymore. He loves me but doesn't want to be with me. These statements, side by side don't make any sense and you can waste a lot of time trying to find the answers.
Finding Closure When You Have Unanswered Questions
Having unanswered questions on a loop in our minds can severely impact our ability to move on after a breakup. The only certainty is that these questions exist in your mind but it's not your responsibility to find out the answers. It's ok not to have closure, for there to be no solution.
We build these scenarios in our heads where we play out to conversations from both sides, we say everything we need to say, we hear everything we need to hear. But the reality is it would never play out like this in real life. The chances are you would have your final conversation, forget things you wanted to say and end up having more questions than you did before. I'm a firm believer that we gain closure from our own inner peace, not from others.
Breakups are painful. Studies have shown that the same part of the brain lights up during both pain and heartbreak. It's ok for this to feel painful but we can stop ruminating thoughts and begin to heal. See the next section for some ways to move on from unanswered questions.
Ways to Move On From Unanswered Questions
Focus on fact. What do you know to be true? Try writing out some statements that you know are fact and refer to these when your thoughts start to spiral. It could be as simple as "I know this relationship is over now and I am working on healing". These are realistic statements that we believe that can help us shift into a more positive mindset.
Build new routines and habits. Now that you are not in a relationship, it is likely that you have a lot more time on your hands. This is the perfect time to pursue activities and hobbies you may not have had the time to do previously. It is also a great time to build new habits such as morning routines and being more productive. Can you start by making the bed every morning or start the day with 10 minutes of stretches?
Practice gratitude. Journaling can be another way to build good habits and develop a mindset based on gratitude. Small shifts in the way we think can have a profound impact on our outlook. For example, "ugh, I have to go to work" can be re-framed as "I get to go to work and earn money to pursue my dreams" or "going to work allows me to live independently." Gratitude can help us focus on what we do have, rather than what we don't.
Letter to My Ex. If there are still things that you feel have been left unsaid, write them. Write it all as if you were talking to your ex. During this exercise you can also think about what you have learned from the relationship, thank them or forgive them and peacefully detach from them. Just don't send the letter once you've written it. Keep it, burn it, throw it away. Just don't send it, the relationship is over and maintaining no contact (with the exception of co-parenting) is more beneficial to your healing than opening old wounds.