There are moments in everyone’s life which become the basis for how that individual sees the world. Similarly, there are moments or events that shape an entire generation, a zeitgeist, or sign of the times.
This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Next year, there will be a whole generation of high school Freshman who were not alive for this event.
Reflecting on September 11th undoubtedly brings to mind the details of where you were when you first heard the news. For me, I remember it was the one day I did not have my cell phone with me and therefore could not immediately call my family. For others, especially those who lost loved ones that day, the details may vary and yet the feeling is universal: loss.
How do we grieve the loss of loved ones, particularly the loss of a spouse?
Many suggest going through the popular five stages of grief identified by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Her work was mainly for the dying not the grieving, but many people have adopted these 5 stages to understand grief. The Dougy Model, offers and suggests 3 phases of grieving. Others seek comfort in religious or spiritual services and guidance. There are numerous ways to mourn and no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of a loved one, unless how you grieve is putting your life or health at risk.
In my practice, I’ve found that individuals who find a way to honor the relationship and keep a small part of it alive report less distressing feelings during the mourning and grieving processes. An example might be someone who purchases an extra lottery ticket in honor of a spouse who enjoyed playing the lottery.
Even though our loved one may not be here physically with us, we continue to have a relationship with him or her; the relationship is simply transformed. In thinking about how the relationship has changed, I like to reference a song from the Broadway Musical of The Lion King “He Lives In You”. There is peace in knowing that our loved ones continue to live on in our memories and our actions. This theme is echoed throughout literature and art, as we frequently see scenes in movies or TV where a character visits another’s grave to engage in a lengthy conversation, perhaps about a recent change or to make a difficult decision.
Why would we engage in behavior like this, a one sided conversation with someone not physically present? For the same reasons that some individuals engage in prayer; it helps us. The connection between our minds and our bodies is strong and anyone who’s ever attempted to change something in his or her life will undoubtedly tell you it all begins in your mind. Change your mind and change your world.
This September 11th, as we remember all those whose lives were lost, let’s also remember to think of those whose lives were changed forever and those who lost a loved one. If you find yourself struggling with how to make peace with a change in your relationship, you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (954) 401-9011. Your life and relationships, are worth it.