For a month, I have had a duck nesting in my front garden. I have no idea why she chose my house to lay her eggs, but I was so glad that she did. It has been great fun watching her every day and anticipating the arrival of the ducklings.
Saturday was the big day. The nine eggs began hatching and we watched through the window as little ducklings appeared and momma expanded to envelop them under her wings to keep them warm. Sunday morning it was the first thing I checked, and they were all there just as they had been the night before. But when I finished reading the paper, they were all gone!
I monitored that duck multiple times daily for a month and then she — and her brood — essentially disappeared within a half hour. I am left without any closure or even the pleasure of seeing the ducklings waddle off into the distance. They are just gone.
If I feel this unresolved feeling over a wild duck, I think of all the situations that we create as humans that deny people a sense of closure in far more meaningful contexts. We fire employees and just escort them out of the building without a chance for anyone to say goodbye. We take children from their homes into the foster care system. Friends break up and deprive us from the friend-of-friend relationships. Someone moves away without a chance for a farewell.
There are many settings where closure is not possible — a death, an egregious act that warrants immediate removal from the premises, threat or danger — but there are far more that could be handled with a bit more compassion. Before you deny someone the opportunity to process emotions or at least to say goodbye, ask yourself if it is truly necessary to multiply the grief in this way. Closure is a gift; try to give it generously.