As a Marriage and Family therapist, I had the privilege of working with 4 survivors of 9/11. These four people were directly impacted by the events of that day. Three had lost a loved one in the terrorist attacks and one walked out of the Pentagon, lagging behind to help a coworker on crutches make it out safely. These four people changed my life as they trusted me to help them change theirs. Together we traveled the long and often lonely path of grieving.
Dealing with grief is a long difficult process that has no timeline. As we journeyed together, I was amazed by their courage, tenacity and most of all their hope. In their darkest days, in the midst of heart breaking struggle they each chose to cling to hope… to look for and wait for the sunlight peeking through the storm. It was a privilege to walk with, coach and counsel them- to be trusted with their stories, heartbreak, fears and doubt. While I hold them in my heart and prayers, as they have now journeyed on to new lives… I always reflect on our time together each year on 9/11.
They are heroes in my book.
Difficult times, devastating events and sometimes just the daily burdens of life can lead to depression. People are uncomfortable with grief. We want to fix, help those who are struggling. In America, we have a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get on with it mentality.” I often tell clients who are weighed down with grief and feeling the pressure to “move on” that it is pretty difficult to pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don’t have any boots! Sometimes we just need to give ourselves space to grieve… to feel what we are feeling and not try to censor it, clean it up or make it palatable to others. Please don’t give into this pressure.
Grief is raw unfettered and unable to be stuffed back into a box or handled quickly. Grief and sorrow often threaten to engulf us. At these times, I encourage my clients to lean into their feelings and just be…not wallow.. .but BE… honest, aware and expressive. This mean yelling at the wall ( not a person) journaling, making collages, spending the day in tears and anger. We need to be willing to feel our feelings. If we try to stuff them, they invariable pop up somewhere; usually in an unexpected and ill-timed rant or action that is out of proportion to the situation at hand.
The old adage of the worker whose boss fires as him, snaps at their spouse, who yells at the kids, who kick the cat comes to mind. Grief cannot be denied, stuffed or hidden… we will express our grief in some way, so why not do it in a healthy and cathartic manner.
Expressing our grief in a healthy way, does not necessity make it go away, but it can lessen the strangle hold it has on us in the moment. My father passed away when I was in my twenties… we were both too young. At that time, a friend shared these words from his own experience: “the pain doesn’t go away, it just gets less raw.” These words gave me hope. And I recalled them to mind often when I experienced one of the deepest grief and loss of my life. Our second daughter is an identical twin and her sister died before their birth. In the days following this news, and the reality that I would carry both girls till our living twin was ready to be born, I remember walking around feeling like a 3rd degree burn victim where the air hurt your skin … While my heart still aches for our sweet daughter in heaven, the pain has gotten less raw through the years. I share this to give hope to those who are grieving.
Find some faithful and understanding friends who will just be with you in your struggle and sorrow. Be open and honest about your grief, depression, dark thoughts with a coach or counselor so that you don’t give up or give into the lies and fears that it will never get better.
Be willing to be honest and real about your feelings with safe friends who will not try to fix you, but will weep or rant with you. Then, as I often tell my clients, set a time to stop… Then get up, wash your face, and do the next thing- whatever that is.
This won’t fix anything, but it will empower you to feel a bit better. You will accomplish something tangible that will help and bring meaning and purpose to a day that is drowning in sorrow. This is not an easy step, but it is a necessary one to keep moving forward through your grief, depression, sorrow and struggle.
If you can do one thing each day that moves you out of the feelings that threaten to overwhelm you, and into action you can slowly cobble these things together until doing the next thing is a bigger part of your coping mechanism than drowning in sorrow. You will have good days and bad days… I can promise you that. But you can continue on and eventually flourish as your heart begins to heal and your focus gets bigger, your purpose for living more clear. It takes courage to be a survivor and move to a life of thriving.
This quote has helped me get though the most difficult and dark day struggles and loss. It helps me cling to the belief that I will thrive and life will be better. I hope it blesses and encourages you.
Please share any quotes, tips or other helpful ideas that you have used to get through and survive and yes, even thrive during difficult times.