6 Ways to Get Closure after a Relationship Ends


You’ve undoubtedly heard others speak about the need for “closure” after a relationship ends. You’ve probably needed it yourself, whether that was after you left a job or you grew apart from your first love. 

Now, closure may be needed as you end your marriage.

 The quest for closure

“Finding closure” has been a term that’s been batted about for decades. People talk about seeking closure from all sorts of situations, from the most benign to the death of a loved one. But the importance of “closure” lies in the healing aspect of a resolution. It’s about processing feelings, understanding what happened, taking ownership – whatever it takes for someone to move past the loop of unresolved feelings that have kept them stuck. 

Closure usually involves all sorts of complicated emotions, often looping back just when it looks like it’s over. And it will look different for different people. For one person, it might come in the form of finally getting to express their feelings to another person. For someone else, it might come as forgiveness toward themselves or someone else. But when it does finally come, they’re able to move past the circumstances that held them captive. This is especially true after a divorce.

Accepting that your marriage is over and truly moving on without letting it hold you back isn’t easy. But it is crucial to make sense of what happened, learn what you need and can’t tolerate in a partnership, and ultimately move on. 

How do you get closure after such an earth-shattering, soul-sucking experience?

Honor your feelings, and grieve the relationship you lost

When Hello Divorce guest blogger Jessica Knight learned her ex had a new romantic interest, the grief hit her hard. But she chose to honor her feelings – and her grief timeline – instead of pushing herself to just “get over it.” The process took a while. It involved frequent journaling and lots of extra sleep. But by allowing herself to truly experience her feelings, Jessica made it through to the other side.

Read: 5 Emotional Tools You Learn from Having a Narcissistic Spouse, by relationship specialist and Hello Divorce contributor Jessica Knight

Emotional acceptance: First steps in healing

When your marriage ends, it can feel like you’ve stepped into a deep, dark abyss. There’s no roadmap, no operating instructions … only you and the feelings swirling around you. 

Even if you were the one to initiate the divorce, you’ll be feeling your own mix of emotions. No matter how much you think you’ve prepared, the reality may be far different from the one in your mind.

Healing won’t come all at once. Divorce requires a grief process similar to grieving the death of a loved one. But the culmination of that grief process – acceptance – allows you to finally come to a place of peace. The internal conflict will ease, and you’ll be able to feel compassion for yourself and maybe even your ex. It will allow you to learn from and let go of the past so you can look forward to a brighter future and healthier relationships. 

The grief process is based on Dr. Elisabeth Kübler Ross’s work on death and dying and involves five general phases in no particular order: anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The phases of divorce grief follow a similar trajectory as what you may feel after the death of a loved one, but the stages are by no means linear, and there is no time element to the grief process. Grief takes the time it takes and will be different for everyone. Honor the phases of your grief and the feelings that accompany them. 

You are entitled to grieve your divorce, and you must grieve your divorce, even if you’re the one who initiated it. Remember, divorce is not just the loss of a spouse. It’s the loss of roles and routines that formed the fabric of your life. 

Read: Recovering and Healing from Divorce Grief, by relationship specialist and author Stella Harris.

How expressing your feelings after your divorce can lead to acceptance

You might be consumed by anger, sadness, fear, feelings of betrayal, or even feelings of relief and liberation. Expressing these feelings after your divorce will be an important part of your healing. 

  • Acknowledge everything you're feeling, and permit yourself to feel it all, even if those emotions conflict. Journaling can be an excellent place to start getting your feelings out on paper so you can see the change and movement from day to day. As you heal, so will your perspective, and being able to recognize it in black and white can be a powerful tool.  
  • Give yourself permission to feel it all. Everything you’re feeling is valid right now, and it will take time to find acceptance and peace.
  • Find a safe and supportive place to confide in others. Right now, you want to be heard and validated, whether that’s with trusted family members and friends or a divorce support group.
  • Be compassionate, patient, and gentle toward yourself, and let yourself grieve and heal at your own pace. Set boundaries with others and protect your own emotional space. You don’t need more negativity right now. Limit your communication with others who come bearing rain clouds of their own, especially your ex. 

Your grief process may require the expertise of a therapist or the positive energy of a life coach. If professional assistance would help, get it. Nobody expects you to do this alone.

Forgiveness: A key to emotional release

You might think the last thing you’re prepared to do right now is forgive. After your divorce, you have every right to feel the way you feel, and forgiveness doesn’t take this away from you. But if you can reframe forgiveness, you’ll see it’s more about your own emotional healing than absolving your ex. 

Being caught in a cycle of resentment and anger can be disempowering and self-consuming. Forgiveness comes from a place of strength, not victimhood, and this can have immense implications for your healing, your relationship with your ex going forward, and even the health and happiness of future relationships. 

Forgiveness isn’t condoning anything your ex did. Instead, it is a powerful emotional tool for your benefit.

Our partner Circles is one of the leading Divorce Support groups in the United States.

Join the thousands of people who’ve found comfort and support with Circles.

Forgive yourself

Looking back on your relationship, some “what ifs” and “if onlys” may cross your mind. While it’s okay to reflect on what happened and learn from your mistakes (or your spouse’s mistakes), it’s not okay to torture yourself with guilty thoughts. Why not? Because you are human. You did the best you could with the tools you had at the time.

Do not blame the failure of your relationship entirely on yourself. Do not blame it entirely on your ex, either. A series of events led to the end of your relationship, some or all of which were out of your control. You now have a chance to start a healthier life chapter. Seize this opportunity! Roadblocking yourself with “what ifs” and “if onlys” is unproductive self-torture. It prevents you from gaining closure and moving on.

Forgive your ex

You may be harboring a lot of anger at your ex. That’s okay. Don’t ignore it. Work through it, whether with a caring therapist, time with friends, physical activity, journaling, or whatever works for you. You owe it to yourself to forgive your ex. That’s right: You owe it to yourself to forgive your ex.

The American Psychological Association reminds us that angry thoughts cause muscle tension, headaches, and an increased heart rate. Anger can prompt unsafe behaviors such as erratic driving, substance abuse, and inappropriate risk-taking. It encourages others to view us negatively. And it can lead to hypertension, stroke, heart disease, ulcers, bowel disease, and even some types of cancer.

How can you gain closure when anger stands in the way, blocking your peace of mind, your safety, and your health? Well, first off, accept that you may never get a meaningful apology from your ex. Assuming you deserve it, it takes A LOT of emotional work for someone to own up to their part of a relationship gone wrong and, well, most people aren’t up to that challenge.

Steve Kane, Hello Divorce guest blogger and author of F*** It, Get a Divorce, provides four reasons why you should forgive your ex:

  • You can do it.
  • Forgiveness is a satisfying form of revenge.
  • The ability to forgive is a skill and a “gift that keeps on giving” long after divorce, in other relationships.
  • Learning to forgive others builds your self-esteem.

To read more about Steve’s take on forgiving your ex, go here. And, if you aren’t yet ready to fully forgive them, at the very least, end the blame game. Don’t waste time looking for whom to blame. It will seriously only bring up negative emotions when what you want to focus on now is your best next chapter - not everything that has gone wrong in the past.

What can you do if you’re still struggling with closure?

Forgiving is hard work, and you may still be struggling with a lot of unresolved feelings toward your ex. Maybe you want to forgive, but you’re just not ready. Things may not have changed much, and you may doubt you’ll ever see an apology or an ounce of remorse from your ex. That’s okay. You can still come to a place of peace with a little self-reflection and not one bit of effort on your ex’s part.


Again, writing things down gets the emotions out of your body and onto paper. Once feelings get outside on more neutral ground, it can allow a whole new perspective. Try to take a more curious approach about what went wrong. What was your role in the break-up, and what could you have done differently? How did you both not attend to each other’s needs? Were you ever good together? What went wrong? In what ways could this be the best possible thing that could happen in your life if you let it?

Write a letter

Write your ex a letter saying everything you’ve wanted to say, good or bad. Write down all your pent-up feelings: how you were hurt, how you wished things were different, how this has affected you. Put the letter away for a day or a week. Then, bring it out and reread it. Does it feel different now? Then rip it up or burn it. 

The things you wrote may still hold an emotional charge for you, but reading it over once the emotions die down can give you more clarity and eventually help you get some resolution. 

The “why?” technique

When you’re still dealing with the residual emotions from your divorce, the simple “why?” technique can also bring more clarity. Ask, “Why?” five times, each time addressing a deeper layer of the issue or feeling. With each layer of self-inquiry, you get closer to the root cause of your emotional turmoil. This can help you reach a deeper level of self-understanding so you can heal.

Find gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful thing, and finding things to be grateful for after a divorce might be difficult at first. Do it anyway. It not only shifts your mindset into something more positive, but it also forces you to remember the things that really matter and will outlive these difficult times.  

Block your ex on social media

The digital era allows us to preserve ties with anyone and everyone. And while it may be harmless to maintain contact with your third-grade best friend or your high school chemistry teacher, it’s not such a good idea to have easy digital access to your ex. All it takes is a tap of a button for you to creep on their profile, peruse their pictures, and get swallowed up by all those old unsettling feelings.

Of course, if you’re co-parenting, you need to stay in contact with your ex somehow. But be choosy about which avenues you use. Following them on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok isn’t necessary. Ditch the social media sites that pick at your freshly healed wounds. Stick to plain old texting, or better yet, use an app designed specifically for co-parenting like Onward, which helps with shared expenses related to children or pets. Onward allows you to compartmentalize that stuff instead of cringing every time you get a text about who owes what.

We also love Fayr. This app has a messaging interface and other features to help avoid the “he said, she said.” Read our interview with Michael Daniels, who developed Fayr as a solution to his own co-parenting problems here.

Digital detox: Managing online presence

A post-divorce digital detox can provide the emotional space you need to heal. But de-digitizing can be easier said than done. After all, you may be in the habit of hopping on social media first thing in the morning or whenever you’re bored. 

But after a divorce, it’s more than stepping away from your phone or social media because it wastes too much time. Right now, digital media can have a big impact on your mental well-being and your ability to move on. Detoxing doesn’t have to be forever, but it may be a good move for now. 

Begin with social media

As we’ve mentioned, social media is often a huge source of post-divorce emotional distress. You know how easy it is to “just take a look” at your ex’s posts, and all the emotions come crashing in. You also don’t need to be confronted with everyone else’s picture-perfect “reality” right now. Limit the time you spend on social media for now or pause it altogether. Your mental health will thank you for it. 

Clean up your other digital spaces

Go through your other devices and cloud storage and delete or archive photos, messages, or emails connected with your ex. You don’t need to accidentally stumble on things that will trigger you after your divorce.

Implement some screen-free time

A lot of your digital scrolling may be pure habit. This can be the first thing with your coffee, right before bed, or during commercials. Training yourself to be more mindful about your screen time can make you more present to things around you and even lead to a better night’s sleep. 

Engage in more real-world connections

Post-divorce is the perfect time to revisit old interests or discover new hobbies that keep you away from the screen. Spend in-person time with friends and foster new face-to-face connections. Get out into nature. When you begin to step away from screen time, you’ll find that your new activities and connections help you feel less isolated and fill a void that your digital time simply couldn’t replicate. 

Lean on your tribe for emotional support

You may be surprised to learn that some Hello Divorce readers aren’t going through a divorce themselves. Rather, they visit this website to learn more ways to support a friend they care about. If friends and family want to help, let them. Asking for or accepting help is a bit of an art, so give it some forethought. What would you appreciate most? Maybe you just want a listening ear. Maybe you could use help managing the kids or running errands.

We explore how to “help them help you,” including how to set boundaries as needed with friends and family members, here. If you have a friend who wants to help but doesn’t know how, invite them to read one of our most popular blog posts of all time, The Good Friend’s Guide to Divorce. It’s full of helpful ideas, and the popularity of this post is a testament unto itself that friends want to help.

If your tribe is full of married people or you’d like support in a different form, consider joining a divorce support group. These groups are available in person and online. Share your story, hear the stories of others, or just sit back and soak in the comforting realization that you are not alone in this.

Practice self-care routinely

What makes you feel good? Do that. We’re not talking about detrimental activities like binge drinking or an unaffordable spending spree. But you might enjoy a glass of wine as you spill your guts to a caring friend. Or, you might appreciate a small indulgence like a new pair of shoes as you step into your new life.

Self-care is more than a cup of tea or a new pair of shoes. It’s getting enough sleep, taking your vitamins, journaling, meditation, making an appointment, or whatever nurtures your well-being. 

In the words of psychotherapist Annie Wright, "Self-care doesn't always look like sleep, yoga, or green juice." It can also look like allowing yourself time to grieve and have a good cry when you’ve become emotionally overwhelmed. It can look like reconnecting with old friends who fell by the wayside when you were busy “being married” and apologizing because you now know the value of those friendships. 

Self-care is a very personal thing depending on what nurtures you physically, emotionally, and mentally. But moderation is key. Be careful to listen to your own body and mind and adjust your self-care practices appropriately to ensure your self-care doesn’t cross the line into more harmful behavior.

Spending a minimum of one hour on yourself per week is not too much to ask. Many people are not self-care-minded. Other obligations – kids, jobs, houses, aging parents – seem to crowd out the time they might otherwise spend on themselves.

If this sounds like you, start small. Check out our list of 101 self-care suggestions, some of which take five minutes or less. Completely doable! Let these activities rejuvenate you, and you might be surprised how much more time and energy you have – for yourself and everyone else.

No doubt about it: Your divorce is likely one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. But you can and will get through this. We’ve helped thousands of people through divorce, and we’ve learned a lot about the human heart (and its ability to heal) along the way. Tuck these tips into your hip pocket, and use them when you need them. (Or bookmark this page and revisit it often!)


Control anger before it controls you. American Psychological Association.


Head of Content
Communication, Relationships, Personal Growth, Mental Health
As Hello Divorce's Head of Content, Katie is dedicated to breaking down the stress and mess of divorce into clear, helpful content that delivers hope rather than fear. Katie most often writes about the emotional toll of divorce, self-care and mindfulness, and effective communication. Katie has 20+ years of experience in content development and management, specializing in compelling consumer-facing content that helps people live better lives. She has a Master's in Media Studies from the University of Wisconsin. Katie lives in Texas with her husband and two adorable cats, and you can find her hiking and bird watching in her free time.