Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

It is Time for Closure on ‘Closure’


As we waited for a stoplight on our way to the Bucknell sports complex for our morning workouts, I noticed that one corner of the intersection had been neatly mowed and a fresh pot of dwarf mums sat by the small white cross by the telephone pole there.

My wife and I reminisced about the death of the son of one of our friends and colleagues at Bucknell some 11 years ago at that intersection.  We have noticed this small, private memorial for all those years, of course; the flowers become plastic in the winter, then bloom again naturally every spring.

The image for some reason reminded me of a journalistic term that has steered so many so far off course I am surprised to hear no response to it. The term is closure and here is my response.  

Reporters have mentioned various sorts of acts as acts of closure: watching a the murderer of a loved one executed, finding the body of a loved one after a long search, burial, and other neat and simple finite acts.  The fact is, as we know from our friends’ experience, when you lose someone you love there is nothing approaching an ending of the sense of loss.

The idea that you can’t go on about your life until you see a felon put to death for the death of someone you love is ludicrous. Neither justice nor vengeance is closure nor does either bring it. Burial certainly does not fill the gaping hole a lost loved one leaves in your life—ever. There really isn’t anything psychological for closure to refer to that I can see or otherwise detect. 

My sense is that closure refers to that point at which the media decide they will no longer carry the story. That would explain its origin in the news room.


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