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Leeat Granek, Ph.D. Headshot

Mourning and the Lonely Land of Closure

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A gift for all the mourners out there...

I recently heard a beautiful interview with Francisco Goldman about his novel Say Her Name on Writers and Company on the CBC. (For the Americans out there, that is akin to your NPR).

The majority of the interview is about the death of his beloved wife who he describes passionately as "the love of his life," and who he speaks about with intense yearning and deep love.

The most moving part comes towards the end of his interview where he speaks about the difference between living in the United States and Mexico City, where he spends eight months of the year.

After his wife died, Goldman tells us, his friends in Mexico made a social calendar for him to ensure that he would never drink alone in the first few months after his wife's death. In Mexico there was always someone at his side. For months and months his friends where there sitting with him, drinking with him, and listening to him.

But when he was back in NYC where he spent the other half of the year, instead of drinking buddies to sit with and share the pain of his loss, he was asked by his friends, "Don't you need closure?"

Indeed, about New York, Goldman remarks: "You're on your own -- NYC is the land of 'Don't you need closure?'"

Alas, if only our denial of grief were solely a New York City issue!

Turns out it's a national issue. In a survey I conducted with Meghan O'Rourke for Slate, nearly 8,000 people responded about their experiences of grief, and told us achingly similar stories.

Like Goldman, nearly 40 percent of our respondents said they felt pressured to "get over it," "move on with their grief" or "stop talking about it" some of the time. More distressingly, 23 percent responded that they felt pressured to move on about their grief most or all of the time

Most importantly, people told us what they wanted most was a community, or in simpler terms, the proverbial "drinking buddies" with which to grieve, but often felt very alone with their mourning.

Helping someone cope with grief is not as hard as we make it out to be. You just need to show up and shut up.

Share a drink.

Hold a hand.

Tell a story.

Most important, as Goldman reminds us, is simply to be there every day.

It's time to reclaim community as a source of healing for our grief. It's so simple. We don't need "closure." We simply need each other.

For more hints on how to support someone who is grieving or how to deal with your own loss, check out our piece on supporting mourners, and my youtube video on how to cope with grief.

For more by Leeat Granek, Ph.D., click here.

For more on emotional intelligence, click here.