About Polly Chester

Polly is a thinker, writer and social worker with passions for human rights, caring for the environment, social justice, social policy, epistemology, philosophy and psychology

Closure: Don’t waste your time on the pursuit of nothing

As 2014 comes to a close, Polly Chester wants to open up the discussion on the closure, urging us all to reflect on the negative moments and derive strength from them as we move into 2015.


During the past few weeks, many conversations I’ve had with friends and colleagues have revolved around tying up loose ends and finding “closure” before we evolve into a New Year. As if the New Year were some kind of panacea that erases everything shit that happened during the year that has passed.

How do you define closure?

When all is said and done, closure is a fairytale. When it comes to the big issues, it’s impossible to find. I used to aspire to it, but never found it.

I’d like to put forward the argument that looking for closure is a denial of life.

It’s always surprising to encounter folks around my age who haven’t experienced significant grief and loss and I often do. As a child, death was explained to me as soon as I could understand the concept; both of my grandfathers had died before I was born. I attended my first funeral around the age of 8, when my grandma on my father’s side of the family died. I developed an understanding of mortality quite early, which was handy, considering what was to come.

When I was 13, my mum’s brother who lived in the UK was murdered. He had altruistically, but foolishly given shelter at his own home for the night to a homeless man, who he’d met while out and about. Upon awakening the next morning, my uncle found that the guest was attempting to steal money from him. What we gathered from the evidence given during the trial was that a scuffle broke out, and my uncle was knifed to death.

His murderer’s defence lawyer made deeply disturbing accusations against my uncle during the trial, citing that the murder had been committed in self-defence in order to weaken the sentence. This compounded distress for everyone. Even though it was 17 years ago, the visceral feeling still pervades when I recall that time, as I am sure it does for everyone in my family.

Following this event, my grandma, who had always been strong and healthy, experienced a stroke that left her permanently incapacitated. My mum was distraught, and became quite ill. Aside from dealing with the horror of what had happened, she was upset that she couldn’t be in the UK for the funeral and regretted not having seen much of her brother before he died.

How does a family find closure after an event like that happens?

They don’t.

However, what you can do is find meaningful activities into which you can channel your grief.

My mum is, and always has been an inspiring environmental warrior and social justice advocate; latching onto important causes wherever she goes. Since moving to Queensland a few years ago, she has joined, and become the musical director of a community arts group that promotes the social inclusion of homeless and displaced people on the Gold Coast, called The Men Out There (MOT) Club.

I suspect that working with the particular demographic might be an unfriendly reminder of what happened to my uncle all those years ago, but how else are you supposed to get on with your life, other than to face up to what’s bothering you and work with it, rather than try to bury, paste over or suppress it?

Mum’s work with the MOT Club doesn’t give her closure – it’s quite the opposite. Not only is she dealing with her own past, but the MOT club participants each have a myriad of complex issues that are discussed in meetings on a regular basis. Rarely is life going particularly well for socially isolated, homeless and disadvantaged people, so along with singing and acting, a portion of the twice-weekly meetings are spent doing a bit of casual group therapy.

It’s difficult work, but the work done by the coordinators of the MOT Club might be the difference between marginalisation and complete social isolation for participants.

The presence of social inclusion and friendship means that people are less likely to be driven to desperate measures and extreme acts to escape poverty. Mum finds her work with the MOT Club extremely rewarding, and she gets to sing and play guitar, which makes her very happy.

Looking for closure is a waste of time, and a slightly narcissistic pursuit. Life throws some devastating events at us from time to time; we can’t do anything about that.

Perhaps rather than looking for closure during the final moments of 2014, a more worthwhile pursuit would be to embrace the negative moments, derive strength from them, and channel that reflective knowledge into doing good things for society.

Share via