Episode 40: Nancy Berns On Moving Beyond “Closure” [The Amiel Show]

Your best friend at work leaves for another job. Your spouse gets fired. The great team you’ve been part of gets split up. Chronic illness keeps you from doing things you enjoy. You experience the death of a sibling, parent, or child.

What do these things have in common?

They are examples of loss.

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But that’s not all.

They are also situations in which our culture (in the United States at least) encourages us to “get closure.”

Getting closure makes sense, right?

Not so fast, says Dr. Nancy Berns, Professor of Sociology at Drake University and author of Closure: The Rush To End Grief And What It Costs Us.

The pressure to move past loss is harmful to our families, our emotional health, and our organizations.

And there is a better way to grieve–indeed, many better ways, each appropriate at different times to different people.

This week on the podcast, Dr. Berns talks about closure and what becomes possible when we choose other approaches for handling loss.

Nancy Berns beyond closure


  • 13:00  Why closure became popular in the 1990s
  • 16:00  Rituals help us feel part of something bigger
  • 20:00  The experience of infant loss
  • 25:00  Conversations Nancy had about the loss of her son, Zachariah
  • 28:00  Knowing who you feel safe sharing with
  • 33:00  Small acts of kindness
  • 38:45  Society’s expectations of how men and women should grieve
  • 43:00  Being part of someone’s death or burial

Listen to the Podcast

Tweet a Quote

Closure is just a word we’ve made up. There’s no research showing that we need closure.

–Dr. Nancy Berns   Tweet this quote

When people hear the word ‘closure,’ they often hear, ‘You’re telling me I need to end my grieving.’

–Dr. Nancy Berns   Tweet this quote

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