*This is an anonymous guest story, about how to give yourself closure after a breakup. A very special person allowed me to write about their experience- thank you.
A Letter From My Ex-Girlfriend: How To Give Yourself Closure After A Breakup
It was sitting there on Messenger.
We hadn’t had any contact in two… maybe three years.
I looked at the sender and an uncomfortable wave of surprise washed over me.
It hadn’t ended well. It hadn’t really begun well either. We were both hung up on other people who weren’t good for us, dealing with completely different kinds of grief in various healthy and unhealthy ways.
It was fun. When it was good it was lots of fun. And it ran deep.
Most people probably didn’t consider it a serious relationship I suppose. It wasn’t monogamous on either side. There were lies and secrets. It wasn’t ‘official’, although we went places together and we held hands and people invited us to events as a couple.
On paper we had nothing in common. She was charming, whimsical, a non-drinker and serious about fitness. I was hanging out with an artsy crowd, liked playing guitar, crochet and going to the pub. She didn’t usually date women with shaved heads. I didn’t usually date women with AFL trophies.
But I felt really connected to her.
We talked. About everything. A lot.
It was sexy.
Sometimes she could guess what I was thinking or feel what I was feeling (which was wonderful and terrifying). I liked being the big spoon. We cuddled for hours by the fireplace, such a cliche, and we loved it.
It grew and grew, even amidst the mess we were making of it.
She did hurt me in the end. Big time.
I walked away, although I didn’t want to. It had to be like that and I was surprised to find at the time that I wise enough to know it. And boy did it hurt. I felt like I’d been left hanging out to dry with no explanation and no understanding of what had gone wrong. I was desperate for closure, but had no way to get it from her.
She’d written to apologise to me, all these years later.
She said she’d been messed up. She’d done terrible things, that she’d grown since then and was so very sorry. She told me how much knowing me had changed her. She said she had loved me.
Isn’t this the letter we all dream of getting when someone has hurt us? Perhaps some of us have even attempted to solicit one. Because WE ALL NEED CLOSURE.
Because how do you give yourself closure after a breakup?
Fact is, we don’t truly believe it’s possible to give ourselves closure. We get hung-up on ‘needing’ to hear from or talk to the ex one last time before we can ‘move on’. It feels desperately and wildly important. I know in the early stages of the breakup I felt this way.
So I was surprised to find, reading the words everyone wants to hear, how little they affected me.
It turns out you can give yourself closure after a breakup.
Or at least, I must have, because I was shocked to discover that I knew deep inside myself that she was sorry, and I had already forgiven her.
I think pride (or a lack thereof, in a good way) had something to do with it. I used to cling onto the kind of pride that would cause endless anguish and face-saving and pretending I didn’t care when I really did. The kind of pride that robs you of your vulnerability, your truth, and your ability to feel stuff and then let it go. A pride that used to make me feel shame and embarrassment from any experience where I was the loser or the fool, that can so easily turn into obsession.
I do remember quite distinctly, soon after we’d ended but were trying to pretend we’d be good mates, hanging out with some friends of hers. She wasn’t there.
One too many whiskeys, and some truths came out. Truths that were humiliating for me. Stuff I didn’t know about. I could palpably feel the pity coming from them, ugh. But also there was something else, a little bit of glee at being the one to tell me what she was ‘really’ like. Why do people love telling you this kind of thing so much?
Anyway. Point is, I felt stupid and I was angry.
I wrote to her saying we would not be friends and that I didn’t need someone like her in my life. I was really worked up about it all. Of course she didn’t respond and while that drove me mad, I ended up spending those next weeks (and maybe months) reflecting, writing and talking. Eventually I realised something.
Despite being ‘humiliated’ in front of people I barely knew and people who love me no matter what, what had I lost?
No one was shaming me. No one was acting like I was a huge idiot. I wasn’t being pitied in such a way that I should feel pathetic. If anything it seemed most people could relate. By being vulnerable and NOT pretending I didn’t care, people warmed to me. I actually became closer with people we had both known.
I realised pride was fairly useless, that anger and shame were closely related to my pride, and that I had nothing to be ashamed of. Mostly I was sad and disappointed.
Because I let myself feel it all, and got support in my real emotions, the sadness and disappointment simply dissipated over a fairly short time. I guess I let it move through me and out the other side. I even told people who’d go on an outraged rant about it all that they weren’t helping and that it was simply a bummer. Another relationship that didn’t last forever, like most of them.
I stopped holding myself hostage in that desire for closure from her.
I began to see much more clearly that she was just a person going through an exceptionally hard time and didn’t behave particularly well. She probably could never truly explain why she did what she did and that’s ok. Knowing this felt good. Much easier and better for my sense of self-worth.
You don’t necessarily need to know how to give yourself closure after a breakup. I gave myself closure without even realising it.
This was a gorgeously messy relationship that became just a Thing that Happened. I could let it go, not allow it to have a hold over me or question myself on any fundamental level.
Hell, I certainly wasn’t perfect in it all either.
Crucially, like all great loves, in this relationship i’d learned important things about myself. That I could be vulnerable and survive with more strength than before. What I like sexually and romantically. That I could love in a way I hadn’t realised, where the other person has much more autonomy and freedom than I’d previously shared. More about how I wanted (and didn’t want) to feel in relationships.
I can’t speculate on her motivations, but the ‘sorry I was shit’ part of the letter didn’t really mean as much as one would hope. It felt a little like someone seeking to be absolved. I mean, it’s good to hear, but you can’t fix something that happened a bunch of years ago and nor did she need to.
So if she wrote the letter looking for forgiveness, she was easy to forgive, because I’d already done so. If she just wanted to share some of her feelings about me and our shared past, well, that was nice I guess, but wasn’t so meaningful three years down the track (except for a little ego boost tbh).
I read and reread it a bunch of times.
I reflected on it.
It definitely wasn’t as satisfying as I would have imagined.
And there it was. Proof that you really don’t need anyone to close the door for you. In fact, they can’t. Even if she’d sent this letter in the early days of our breakup, I doubt it would have given me anything that I didn’t need to sort out for myself.
Needing closure is really about needing someone to explain. Because it’s so hard to believe someone you adore would hurt a good person who is worthy of love.
It makes you question if you really are worthy of love.
But the truth is, people usually aren’t really thinking about ‘you’ when they do hurtful things. Often it’s not even about you or the relationship. It’s about them and something they’re going through. I was floored to realise I already knew that about this person whose opinion once meant so much to me. Funnily enough, my own opinion of myself was much higher than i’d credited.
I’d moved on from needing their words- of explanation, of apology, of anything.
So the letter felt… nice. But it wasn’t the closure I thought i’d once needed.
It wasn’t deeply meaningful, it didn’t change how I felt about what happened between us or how I felt about myself. But I did feel seen by this person who had certainly mattered to me, and that was good. She remembered me, and remembered me well.
And so I wrote back, to try give her a kind of closure that maybe she was seeking. I let her know that she was long since forgiven and that she was not forgotten. To tell her that I carried her around in some small was with me too, as we do with everyone that we have loved.
And that was it. Perhaps when she got it, it was also nice but much less meaningful and important than she’d hoped for. I’ll probably never know.
Perhaps that is exactly how it is meant to be.
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