4 min read
How do you resolve a conflict when the other person isn’t there anymore?
Those who have experienced the loss of a significant person in their lives (due to death or dissolution of the relationship) may find themselves in this very predicament. Take the Unfinished Business Quiz to see if you have any unfinished business.
We found that 43% of individuals reported experiencing some degree of unfinished business with the person who died.
-Dr. Jason Holland, Lifespark
Relationships have a way of persisting even after a physical separation. We have imaginary conversations with people from our past, often drudging up old wounds and arguments.
And just like a real argument, these internal dialogues with people from our lives may or may not be productive. When counterproductive, we might feel that there was a lack of closure or that some issue remains unresolved, leading to negative feelings like anger, regret, or shame.
This phenomenon is often referred to as “unfinished business.”
In our own research with bereaved adults who experienced a diversity of losses, we found that 43% of individuals reported experiencing some degree of unfinished business with the person who died. Those who reported such experiences were also more likely to experience difficulties in the grieving process.
It would then seem that the resolution of unfinished business (or lack of it) has real implications for our happiness and well-being. Even in the absence of the other person, these lingering thoughts and feelings can eat at us and fester like a picked-over wound.
Healing such wounds often involves acknowledging feelings about the other person, holding him/her responsible for past transgressions, understanding one’s own role in the conflict, and/or developing a more nuanced and compassionate view of the other person. If you are interested in finding out to what extent you might be carrying around unfinished business from your past, take the quiz below and learn more about your experiences and how they compare with others.
And if you find that you are carrying around some unfinished business, try our Working through Unfinished Business exercise, which involves writing a letter to someone from your past.
*The items used for this quiz were drawn from the Unfinished Business Resolution Scale developed by Dr. Malini Singh. Permission to use this scale was granted by Dr. Malini Singh and her doctoral advisor, Dr. Leslie Greenberg.