How Rituals Can Help When You Don't Get Closure


Jessica Munoz

After a breakup, sometimes all we crave is closure. My last breakup was so difficult because I never had any closure afterward. We didn’t speak at all; in fact, we still haven’t since that last day I saw him. I was left with so many unanswered questions and I remember thinking, if only we could talk and get everything out on the table, at least I would know why our relationship went south.

That didn’t happen, so I took things into my own hands and adopted rituals to help move on with my life. I took myself out on walks, practiced yoga daily, and started working from coffee shops rather than at home alone. Questions remained unanswered, but now, the unknown details of our relationship don’t matter to me anymore. What I do know, and what I learned on my walks, and during yoga and at coffee shops is that I don’t want to be with someone I can’t communicate with and who doesn’t respect me enough to give me that time. I did so much growing through my rituals and those activities will always have a special place in my heart.

Here are five great reads on how rituals may be able to help you too.

“When it comes to grief and our experience of loss, even a short ritual can diffuse our feelings of upset, anger, and grief by providing a greater sense of control…If you feel like there are losses that you are hanging on to or not able to properly mourn, create a ritual.”

-Research on why simple rituals can help you feel better. (

“I looked for all the pictures we took together during the time we dated. I then destroyed them into small pieces (even the ones I really liked!), and then burnt them in the park where we first kissed.”

-People perform mourning rituals in an effort to alleviate their grief and they are proving to be effective. (

“Relationships are complicated, and there are usually legitimate reasons you cared about the commitment that’s now over. It’s important to give ourselves permission to acknowledge that we are sad about what happened and it’s going to be hard for a while and it’s okay. Relationship bereavement leave from work should be a thing: it is incredibly hard to focus when you are managing any kind of grief.”

-Julie explains the importance of giving a broken relationship a funeral. (

“You can also combine your post-breakup detritus with that of others: The performance artist Nate Hill created a character called Death Bear who would show up at your doors (at your request) in a freaky black PVC bear costume to “take things from you that trigger painful memories and stow them away in his cave, where they [would] remain forever, allowing you to move on with your life.” I was inspired by Death Bear’s story, and since 2004 I’ve hosted my own and my friends’ painful romantic memories on my bookshelf in this improvised ‘No No! Bad Thoughts! Box.'”

– Tips on what to do with an ex’s old belongings. (

Last but not least: make yourself a cup of tea and watch this conversation with Harvard behavioral scientist Francesca Gino and Slate’s Human Nature correspondent William Saletan about the role of ritual in human life. (

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