Adam Piggott

Gentleman adventurer

There is no such thing as ‘closure’.

Type ‘victims need closure’ into a search engine and a host of articles will tumble out, their contents replete with confident proselytizing as to what must be done to end the torment of these poor victims. The term closure is particularly favored by modern politicians. No betting agency would even dare to accept a wager that a speaker would not utter the word at least several times at some event witnessing the unveiling of a memorial to this or that traumatic drama.

But the word does not mean anything in this context. The term allows the speaker to give the appearance of saying something while actually meaning nothing much at all.

“I am glad that we are present today at the unveiling of this memorial which will go some way towards giving closure to the relatives of the victims.”

The addition of ‘go some way’ makes it even more obtuse. How much way has it gone? How is this measured and who will do the measuring? Will results be updated of said measurements in real time? At what point along the way will full and actual closure be obtained? What are the benefits to the relatives of having this closure?

There is no such thing as closure in real life. Nobody has closure on a traumatic event or the loss of a loved one. Only children and congenital liars believe in closure. The real world doesn’t work that way. You get on with your life as best you can while attempting not to become overwhelmed by the despair that you feel. As years pass the despair will recede but it will never go away. It will always be there in some form. It rides on your shoulder as a tiny gremlin. The best you can do is to get it to shut up but you can never remove its presence.

So why do people persist in using this word? Either they are trying to sell you something, (and clinical Psychologists are typically the worst offenders here), or they are attempting to mask the fact that they are incapable of actually saying anything of meaning. Step forward politicians, journalists, and government officials:

“We understand how important it is to return the missing person to his family, to provide them with some closure, and despite our considerable efforts we have not been successful so far,” Tasmanian Police Inspector Matthew McCreadie said in a statement today.

The police inspector deals in closure, (although in this case only some closure). How comforting those words must be to a deeply worried and grieving family! Surely they will be comforted by that warm and embracing bureaucratic terminology.

Or perhaps not. A real and actual person might say something along these lines:

“We are doing our best to find the body of the missing man so his family may be able to grieve with dignity. It is a difficult task which our officers and volunteers have thrown themselves into and we will not rest until we can look the family in the eye and say that we have found him.”

The actual quote from the police inspector is cloaked in words designed to protect himself. He “understands” that returning the missing person is “important”. They have made “considerable efforts” even though this does not adequately describe just how much effort has been made, and they “have not been successful so far” despite the fact that we do not know just how long the so far will continue.

And of course, how could we forget the lovely term closure sitting there in the middle in all of its meaninglessness. The police inspector speaks this way so as to protect himself and his department from litigation. Closure is the unnatural follow on from blame. Nobody can take responsibility any more and bad events are not acceptable in our lives. Somebody, somewhere, must be held accountable for what has transpired. So there can be litigation and a finger can be pointed, and then a judge or official can make a summary and points can be awarded, and finally it will all be settled and we can move on to the next item in the agenda.


The police inspector seeks to protect himself from litigation by using terms such as closure but it was just such terminology that went hand in hand with creating a litigious society in the first place.

Children playing in the sandpit will experience something unfair and beastly and begin to cry. The howls will continue until an adult steps in and dispels judgement. The children will accept the judgement with some sniveling and then move on with their playing. The event will be almost immediately forgotten.

That is closure.

The use of the term in media, business, and the parliament merely betrays the infantilizing of our society and culture and the debasement of our language. It is a favorite word of the managerial class and the cloud people. They seek closure on the issue of deplorables everywhere.


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  1. The only extent to which I could see “closure” being a thing, is in the case where a family member is missing, and presumed dead, but with no body there remains a hope that they might be living yet.

    I suppose there are other parallels to this; we want to know for certain whether a relationship is definitely finished, or whether a job situation is definitely caput, but while this knowledge might save us the energy wasted on speculation, it won’t do anything to eliminate the pain.

    • Adam

      No, it would not do anything to eliminate the pain.

      In the future I imagine that management-speak will use the word closure to describe firing someone.

      “We have given closure to Jim in sales so he can move forward to new and vibrant opportunities that reflect his core values.”

  2. Carl-Edward

    The idea of: ‘closure’ is a comparatively recent invention. Life is full of disappointments and great unhappiness. Eventually, these things fade into the background of one’s own life, although there is no: ‘getting over’ them in the sense that many southern Californians, for example, choose to imagine. Another thing – equally irritating – is the substitution of a: ‘celebration of [a] life’ for a funeral. It is undoubtedly much easier to attend such a thing, although it goes wide of the mark.

    Whatever one may think of the medical profession, a doctor does not regard death as a tragedy, but rather as part of the cycle of nature – for death comes to us all.

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