Like everyone else, 9/11 had a profound impact on me. I live in Massachusetts, the departure point for the two planes the terrorists hijacked and crashed into the WTC, and I work in the security community. Through those two worlds, I know many people who lost loved ones or were called into action that day.
This isn’t about where I was and what I was doing that day. You can read that post here. This is about six lessons I’ve taken from my own experiences of losing loved ones. May it offer you some measure of peace, whether you’ve suffered from the impact of 9/11 or lost people under more natural circumstances.
- Let it suck. Don’t be a hero. If you’re feeling the pain from losing your grandmother, let it out. You don’t have to do it in front of people. Go in a room by yourself and let the waterworks flow if you have to. Don’t worry about trying to keep a manly face around people. You don’t have to pretend you’re OK for the sake of others in the room.
- Don’t forget the gratitude. When someone dies, it’s easy to get lost in your own grief. There’s even a self-pity reflex that kicks in. Try to take the time to remember how awesome your loved one was. Share the most amusing memories and have some laughs. You’ll feel more at peace when you remember a life that was lived well.
- Take a moment to appreciate what’s still around you. Your girlfriend. Your friends. If death teaches you anything, it’s that you never know how long the other loves of your life will be around. Don’t waste the time you have with them.
- Don’t worry yourself into an anxiety attack over possible loss. Yes, God could take your loved ones at any moment. He holds all the cards, so it’s pointless to even think about it. Just be there for people, and let them be there for you.
- Take care of yourself. You can comfort yourself with all the drugs, alcohol, sex and food there is to have. But take it from me, giving in to addictions is nothing but slow suicide. You can’t move past grief and see the beauty of what’s left if you’re too busy trying to kill yourself. True, I learned a ton about the beauty of life from having been an addict, but that doesn’t mean I’d ever wish that experience on others. If there’s a better way to cope, do that instead.
- Embrace things that are bigger than you. Nothing has helped me get past grief more than doing service to others. It sounds like so much bullshit, but it’s not. When I’m volunteering for my kids’ school and Scouting events or taking time to talk to people who have read this blog and have their own issues to sort through, I’m always reminded that my own life is so much better than I realize or deserve.
This isn’t a science. It’s just what I’ve picked up from my own walk through the valley of darkness. I’ve learned that Life is a gift to be cherished and used wisely. I’ve also learned that it hurts sometimes, but that’s OK.