9/11 Anniversary: Coping with Grief and Loss

-By Nicole K. Reich, LMFT, FT

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As the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks approaches, many may experience a resurgence of memories from that day, which can remind individuals not only of our community’s collective grief stemming from the event but also personal grief in their lives.

Though communities have demonstrated strength and resiliency as a result of 9/11, memories of that day can also trigger feelings of anxiety, fear, and vulnerability. This may be especially true for people whose resources are spread the thinnest, such as caregivers who are grieving the death of a family member, caregiving for an ill child or adult, or suffering from unemployment, homelessness or financial stressors.

In this context, some may find they are more affected by 9/11 commemoration events than they anticipated and may find it harder to protect themselves from emotional, and sometimes painful, experiences.

However, the 9/11 anniversary doesn’t have to be one that creates stress or anxiety in your life. Below are some tips individuals can follow in order to remain mindful of their current state of wellness and improve coping skills when apprehensive feelings arise.

  • Take care of yourself. Maintain a healthy diet, get enough sleep and participate in physical activities – a simple walk can be life-affirming and grounding.
  • Make sure you arrange for appropriate respite care. This can provide you space and time from caregiving duties and a chance to re-charge.
  • Use your personal support system. Plan a visit or phone call with family, friends, doctors, therapists or spiritual advisors; make sure to reach out to them if your stressors exceed your threshold of comfort.
  • Access local grief and loss support, such as The Center for Grief Care and Education, 211 San Diego and other local crisis care resources.
  • Keep in mind feelings of grief can be unexpected and the intensity may take you by surprise. Not only is grief an emotional and cognitive experience, it can be triggered by sights, sounds, tastes and touches.  This awareness can help you maintain balance.
  • Plan a ritual to honor the 9/11 anniversary. Rituals, such as planting a tree or lighting a candle, can provide control over anticipated feelings and be a safe outlet for emotions.
  • Create, or visit, a physical reminder. Visit a meaningful place to leave flowers, pray, write in a journal or reminisce or place a special memento in your home or office.
  • Give of yourself. Donate your time or money to an organization that is involved in 9/11 remembrances, such as The 9/11 Healing and Remembrance Program, or another organization that has special meaning to you.

However you choose to spend the anniversary of 9/11, we hope it is a day of peace and allows you the time and space to honor your feelings and memories.

Nicole K. Reich, LMFT, FT, Nicole Reich is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has worked in the field of grief and loss for more than a decade.  Nicole is an AAMFT-Approved Clinical Supervisor at The Center for Grief Care and Education at San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine.


One Comment on "9/11 Anniversary: Coping with Grief and Loss"

  1. Even if it’s a memorial, memories of that day, 10 years ago, is still just as heartbreaking when I first heard of it. I sincerely hope, especially to those who are deeply affected, are living their lives in celebration and memory of those people who died in 9/11.

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