The choice for grieving families in Aurora, CO: FORGIVENESS or CLOSURE

My heart goes out to the families and survivors of the Colorado massacre.  Their grief and anger will surely be made all the worse for that killing spree seeming utterly senseless and without any apparent motive. Death for a cause, even if it is an unworthy one, is almost bearable, but coming to terms with death without a price is beyond imagination.  Even if Holmes chooses, at some future point, to make his motive known there can be none that would pass muster as anything other than the rantings of a deranged mind.

If he had done what most other mass murderers have done, which was to kill themselves or be killed by the police right after the mass killing, the families and survivors might at least have had the satisfaction that he, too, had paid the ultimate price and they could have at least begun the task of healing their lives within days.  As it is, the likelihood is that the prosecution of Holmes will take many months which will only prolong the agony for everyone.  In fact, if the prosecutors go for the death penalty, it could be a good many years before the whole affair is wrapped up, never mind months.  

The word commonly used, on behalf of the victims to mark the end of their ordeal is a word I hate.  Closure.  I hate it because I believe that without forgiveness there is no such thing as closure.  Even if justice seems to have been served and the person is punished or even executed, there is no end to the pain attached to what happened until there is forgiveness.  Only then is peace possible.  Even then it has to be Radical Forgiveness, not the conventional kind.  (Conventional forgiveness is much the same as kidding yourself you have closure.)

However, for those in pain at this time I do not advocate forgiveness.  Not even Radical Forgiveness.  Not yet. They will first need to be fully supported in going through the experience of feeling the grief, sadness, anger, rage and fear before they can even start on forgiveness.   

The reason I mention this now, though, before I and everyone else move on to other things, is to urge the families and survivors to make an early choice for forgiveness rather than closure, even if to do so is premature at this time.  If closure can only come at the end, they could be trapped in pain for years as they get dragged, emotionally if not literally, through the endless and ugly process of trying Holmes in court and sentencing him.  They would be forced to relive the event many times over.   If he were to get the death penalty, it might easily be ten or more years before the so-called ‘closure’ would come, presumably with his execution.  If they begin now to open themselves to healing through Radical Forgiveness as soon as possible, they could be at peace in just a few months, emotionally unscathed by the legal process way before it is all over.

14 thoughts on “The choice for grieving families in Aurora, CO: FORGIVENESS or CLOSURE

  1. Jakki

    There’s no place for the word “hate” in anyone’s vocabulary, much less in anyone’s heart.
    I agree no forgiveness – no closure, but if there is a place in our hearts for the word “hate” no matter how it is used, maybe we still have a lot to work on….

  2. Pingback: Forgiveness vs. Closure in the Aurora shootings « Heal Your Past Lives

  3. Kfelice

    Thank you for this posting . There is a lot of outrage here in Colorado and it is hard to see the anger and the grief. It then makes you wonder what was going on with this person who killed these people and how did he get that way?

  4. Rev. Blair Rowell

    Collin, I can appreciate your method of forgiveness. I presented it within one of my classes and during a couple of my sermons on Sunday Christian worship at a leading cancer hospital. I can also see the needs of the bereaved family members, friends, and fellow U. S. citizens of the victims of this tragedy. Each will need time and space to grieve, to feel the loss and the pain, anger, sorrow, and despair in their own way. All of those are appropriate. As a hospital and hospice chaplain I can tell you that grief can be a healing process, especially, if it guided. To suggest to the loved ones of those victims that they need to forgive would, at this point, be, for me, irresponsible and inappropriate. There will be a time for that. It is not now. “For everything there is a season, and time for every matter under heaven….” (Ecclesiastes 3:1ff).

  5. Patricia Arnold

    You state that you do not advocate forgiveness, not even Radical Forgiveness for the survivors of this inhumane attack. Not yet.

    I’m surprised. After reading Radical Forgiveness years ago, I became an unwavering believer that forgiveness heals. Radically. Nothing, not even the message of this post–to postpone forgiveness–can shake my faith in the healing power of forgiveness.

    I’m reminded of an article I read in the Christian Science Monitor on the first anniversary of the shocking executions of five Amish schoolgirls in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. The article reminded us how swiftly the girls’ murderer was forgiven: “Members of the Amish community began offering words and hugs of forgiveness when the blood was barely dry on the schoolhouse floor.” ( Radical.

    You inspired me to make forgiveness a focal point of my Drama Queen Workshops, where our mission is to “leave the drama behind.” In fact, one of our four DQW principles is Absolutely nothing is unforgivable.

    That’s also radical–but it’s the only conclusion I could draw after reading Radical Forgiveness. In fact, I gave a grateful nod to you and your book in the metaphysical memoir that inspired the workshops, EARTH Is the MOTHER of All Drama Queens.

    Pain happens to souls wearing human body costumes. Even those who don’t intentionally plan to hurt us do not intentionally plan not to hurt us. Just as others’ suffering enables us to practice compassion and generosity, if others never hurt us, how would we learn or practice this blessing called forgiveness and experience its healing power?

    Like you, I believe that there can be no closure without forgiveness. That’s why I am so surprised that you are advising those who are deeply impacted by Mr. Holmes’ inhumanity to postpone their forgiveness–essentially delaying their healing and their closure.

    The misguided ego-self believes that offenders must “pay the ultimate price” before victims and survivors can have some closure. However, as you noted, the lengthy judicial process simply holds each individual in hostage, writhing in pain as they relive the horror for months and years.

    Postponing forgiveness imprisons these loved ones, forcing them to serve years of emotional hard labor. Even when the gavel falls, many of them will discover that there was no payoff. They have no closure, no peace, and no freedom like the Amish, who trust Divine Justice. They didn’t forgive. And they didn’t do it quickly, before the grief, sadness, anger, rage and fear caused more serious injury.

    1. admin

      Hi Patrica,
      Some people can go to forgiveness quickly, others need some time to go through the essential process of grieving and feeling their ‘natural’ human feelings. To go immediately to forgiveness without allowing ourselves to feel our feelings is to do a ‘spiritual bypass.’ This is just another form of denial and repression and is not healthy. Forgiveness is a process and part of the process is feeling and acknowledging our feelings. Forcing people to go straight to forgiveness at the intellectual level is a form of spiritual abuse.

      1. Patricia Arnold

        Thanks for that insight. I certainly wouldn’t want to promote any action that would be considered abusive.

        Has it been your experience that forgiveness is effective at the intellectual level, whenever it occurs? I have witnessed it happening most immediately when initiated from the level of Real Self–soul–during a meditation or visualization. At that level, there is no sense of the man-made construct called “time.”

  6. Carrie

    I also HATE the word closure! I think it a complete head fake. Usually to “get closure” you need the person that hurt to you to own up to their role in your pain, and if you are hurt nothing anyone says will ever be good enough. I really needed this message today (visiting my parents tomorrow!) Thanks Colin!

  7. elizabeth

    holmes is a manchurian candidate. Also, I would not like to imply that they deserved it at all, but what do people think the “dark knight” stands for?

    Lucifer Rising. Why are we so excited about these dark movies? What do we expect?

  8. Ana Holub

    Thanks for your insights, Colin. Whether or not the families radically forgive now or in time, they will have no peace until they let go of hatred. That’s why I was surprised to see you use the word “hate” in your post. Why do you use it here? What good is perpetuating hate, in any of its forms?

    Also, I don’t know that dropping my physical body is the “ultimate sacrifice”. Perhaps there are worse things than that, like taking an extreme step away from integrity. I’m aware that this “ultimate sacrifice” phrase is often linked to an attempt by the media to whip up nationalism, patriotism and war-mongering. I’m sitting with the question, and invite everyone’s thoughts on this…

    For me, the point of forgiveness is to walk the bridge to Spirit, no matter what happened or who did it. This is where peace lives for all of us. And, if someone just brutally murdered my children or spouse, I don’t know how long it would take for me to begin walking that bridge.

    My heart goes out in deepest compassion to everyone involved – including Mr. Holmes. Murderous killing, in every nation, is a devastating thing that ripples out and affects our whole planet.

    May peace begin with me. And us.

    1. Gabrielle Sinclair

      I first heard of Colin in a series of interviews entitled “Living A Course in Miracles.” As a student of ACIM, I believe your comments are tuned in with the concepts of ACIM: Nothing is unacceptable. We respond either out of love or out of fear. The world we live in is an illusion. We are not our bodies…

      Forgiveness is the only way to cope in this insane world. Jesus said, forgive them for they know not what they do. We must forgive others and forgive ourselves for reacting with hate, fear, anger, vengence and judgment. Are these not the same thoughts that caused Mr. Holmes to do what he did?

      I share your compassion for all parties involved, including Holmes. It is so difficult to break the cycle of hate, but we must or else fear will be our only experience on this plane.

  9. Amanda


    Thank you. I have spent a large portion of life “trying” to forgive people when in my heart I am angry at people and have hatred towards the whole world because of all the hurt I have suffered and all the hurt being caused in the world. We need to have a very strong desire to heal and to grow in love, some humility to admit and experience these feelings WITHOUT projecting them or taking them out on another person – usually someone weaker than ourselves.

    Much love to you.


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