Gestalt Psychology

Unfinished Business

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In Gestalt psychology when any aspect of your life is left hanging we call it unfinished business. This state can eat away at you, really affecting the quality of your relationships and how you see the world. Some common experiences that are attached to unfinished business are abuse suffered at the hands of primary caregivers, difficult endings of romantic relationships, and deaths of important people. These situations usually elicit grief.

What often happens is that the emotional wound created feels so raw and overwhelming that ignoring it, running away from it, seems like the only option. Confronting grief head on doesn’t seem possible. If you are attacked by a vicious monster of epic proportions you are going to run for cover. It’s the rational and the instinctive thing to do. As time goes by the pain diminishes, but it never fully goes away. People feel broken but they come to accept this state as normal and go on about their lives as best they can.

But there is another reason why so many never attempt closure, and thinking about it always makes compassion and empathy surge up in me. The feelings attached to the loss might be painful, draining, and almost unbearable but they are all that remain of the person who is gone. Keeping the feelings alive seems to keep the connection alive. It’s completely understandable and even beautiful to not want to let go.

The thing to remember when it happens to you, and it will if it hasn’t already, is that you will never forget who you lost and your love for them will never diminish. Getting over unfinished business is about letting go of the pain and healing yourself, it’s not about forgetting how important someone was, still is, and will always be. It doesn’t really seem fair, but the deeper and more authentically we love the more pain we feel when the object of our love is taken from us. At its heart grief recovery is about getting to a point where you can freely move forward without regret, treasuring everything you gained from the person you lost and using these experiences to carve out new meaningful relationships for yourself.

If they loved you like you love them they would want you to move on and be able to live a full, happy life. Imagine what they would say to you if they could see you moping around and down in the dumps, wasting the precious gift of life that they can no longer enjoy. Everyone knows this intuitively but it’s easy to forget in the midst of anguish and longing. Have a conversation now with whoever you care about the most and tell them how much they mean to you before it’s too late. Even if they are irrevocably lost to you it’s not too late to say how you feel out loud, which is a vital part of getting over unfinished business. Goodbyes are tragic, but always remember that we carry our ancestors and the people we love around with us. They are a part of us and we do their memories honor by living full, meaningful lives of connection.