I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of closure recently. Last month was a roller coaster of emotions. I didn’t anticipate breaking up with my partner of one year or having a family pet quite quickly pass away. Neither of these occurrences were expected or welcomed. The response was a lot of grieving, which I would characterize by emotions and actions I couldn’t control. Sporadic fits of crying hijacking my routines. Tears welling up in conference rooms and meetings at work, sniffles shed behind closed doors and drawn blinds of my office, wet drops trickling down my eyes, obscuring my view as I drove to the grocery store. I cried when I thought about what she and I were, what we are not, and what we will never be. I cried when I thought about Keith, our family she-poo, in the Vet room, lying on the table still wearing his red, winter sweater. He was looking right at me when they injected the syringe that would slowly stop his heart from beating.
I felt so many thoughts, none of which I had any ability to control. I thought about how 5 weeks ago, we were told Keith had a herniated disk. Something that, while painful, didn’t cause me to jump to the idea that he would need to be put down. I thought about how during those weeks, he would have moments of getting better, followed by many moments of becoming worse. And in my head, I didn’t know when ‘the right’ time was. I didn’t want to be the person that makes a decision to end his life because how can I ever know if it is the ‘right’ decision. I felt guilt. What if it was too soon? What if we had waited too long? What if he was in incredible amounts of pain but couldn’t express it to us, other than with a quick whimper when we lifted him up to go outside. And that space between waiting too long or acting too quickly is incalculably heavy.
The same could be said for my relationship with ‘her’. After things ended, and very much not in a way I expected, I wondered, what happened, how did we end so quickly? I started to realize that we had a very different idea of what our relationship was. In my mind, I think I believed an almost alternative reality. That we would get through the physical distance that added a wedge between not only our bodies but also our thoughts and emotions. I believed that we would survive because I had to believe that to continue to give in the relationship. What I didn’t see was how much I was giving and how I was ready to give, but my partner wasn’t. She wasn’t ready for the commitment she perceived that I gave. She wanted to experience whatever else was out there and I can’t blame her for that. Because my perspectives were gained through all the experiences I’ve had, and that has helped me to value the relationship for how I understood it.
I try to remind myself, with both of these situations that while these feelings are horrible there are many circumstances that are far worse. Situations that don’t have an honest dialogue between two people. Situations where you never have the chance to say goodbye. That was how I understood the closure my partner and I had. It may not have been how I imagined our relationship to unfold, but we expressed our feelings in an honest way, and that’s all I can ask for.
Although I couldn’t communicate with Keith, our family dog, I was there with him in the end. I stood there with my father in the vet room, tears streaming down my face, as Keith lay on the table. He looked right at me before we ended his life. After that moment, and after his small head fell back onto the operating table, I felt an immense sadness. I debated whether we had acted too soon, whether he had any idea that in an instant he would never wake up again, whether I should ever be in control of ending a life. While it was heavy, very heavy, I also felt like being there with him at the end was the right thing to do. It helped me to find that closure, which so many never get.
I might not be able to change the situation but I can change how I think about and reflect on what has occurred. I could focus on my guilt for Keith or how I miss the way she held me at night. I could choose to remember these things. Or I could focus on what we did well, and I could appreciate it as a beautiful, messy, and significant moment in my life. A chaotic chapter that may not feel like it had a very punctuated ending, but a beautiful part nonetheless.
In my struggle to find a ‘right’ time, with Keith and my partner, I’m slowly coming to this very ‘adult like’ realization that there is no such thing. There are times that we have a little bit of a warning. There are times when we can say goodbye, but there is never a right time to end a relationship or end a life. Maybe that’s something that I will just continue to realize. That this idea that life happens in neat, little chapters, where we can end and summarize things before another story begins is wishful thinking. There is no right time. Only how you manage the unfolding, unexpected twists.