On the thirteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, my thoughts today are with the people whose lives changed so tragically and so dramatically when their loved ones died.
It may not feel to them as if thirteen years has passed since this horrific event. It may feel as though their loss happened yesterday. That’s the trick that grief can sometimes play on us. For no matter how much time has passed, no matter how much work has been put out to move the healing process forward, the anniversary of losing a loved one is a day filled with powerful conflicting emotions.
I imagine today will be a day when the poignant memories of a shared lifetime with their loved one will flood back into their thoughts at inopportune times; all jumbled up and messy, like a home movie jumping from one scene to another as though spliced together with no transitions. Parts of conversations will also be recalled, the way the person looked that morning, what they were wearing, what they might have been eating, as everyone was getting ready for work and saying good-bye to begin another day just the way they had the day before.
I am not trying to state the obvious. Not at all. I am trying to empathize with how today will feel for those who lost a loved one 13 years ago; when thousands were killed as a coordinated series of terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda brought down the Twin Towers in New York City, collapsed the western side of the Pentagon in Washington, DC and led to the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA, shattering America’s sense of security.
For 13 years, these brave people have raised our awareness about bereavement. They have been trying to somehow develop resilience, accept the reality of their losses, adjust to a world without their deceased, all the while experiencing the raw pain of grief and the desire to try and find an enduring connection with their deceased.
This is what counselors call grief work and it is the among the hardest work anyone can try to do. Grief is not linear and it can be triggered hundreds of ways. Grief work requires laying yourself bare and accepting your vulnerability as a human being. In my grief work after my husband died ten years ago, I found that prayers and the emotional support of friends and family were essential during this confusing time but the toughest part of the work was coming to the realization that only I could do the healing and rebuilding work. People could try to help me but in the end I had to find my way of dealing with the roller coaster ride of grief.
Small steps reshape your life after a loss. Inner strength is gained slowly and then begins to build upon itself. Scores of children have been born and many who lost their spouses have found new loves and remarried. Some of the sharpness of their pain has disappeared and been replaced with the knowledge that it is possible to find happiness again.
But for a few quiet moments today, time will stand still and many will remember their precious loved ones. Tears will be shed, and in remembering an expression or something intimate, smiles may also appear.