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Surfing the Aftershocks of Grief on 9/11




Every day is made up of 1,440 minutes and we often have trouble distinguishing one day from the next.  Life can be mundane and we are often busy running from one place to the next in order to achieve a given task.   In their song In a Hurry the band Alabama writes ” I’m in a hurry and don’t know why” and this is often the attitude of most Americans.  Most of us don’t know why we are running around and are so busy that we forget what happened yesterday, or last week, or last month.  We often lose perspective and we fail to see what is right in front of us because we are so busy as we take a ride of the never ending merry go round of life.  Then there are times when that merry go round comes to screeching halt.  Something happens and we never forget that moment in time and where we were on the day the thing happened.  The thing could be a formidable event and today- we pause as we remember the lives lost on September 11th 2001.  Those of us that were alive on September 11th, 2001 will never forget where we when we heard about the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center.  Fifteen years have passed since that day, but we can still feel the aftershocks of the event.  There are several things that we can do to mitigate stress brought on by the anniversary of death or a traumatic event.  The following are a few strategies for handling these situations:


  1.  Give Voice to Grief:  Some find it comforting to share about the death of a loved one.  In the days and weeks following a death we are often overwhelmed by thoughts of the person who died, but eventually this lessens.  In time we come to think about this person less but anniversaries of the loss can be hard.  Anniversaries of a death or tragic event serve as a reminder about what and/or who was lost and can leave the living with raw emotions that can be hard to sift through.  Giving voice to grief on an anniversary can be helpful in letting people know what you’re dealing with and that you’re hurting.  Writing about the event or person lost is another way to give voice to grief and is an easier way to handle the situation in a more private manner.  Some find it hard to discuss those lost on the day of an anniversary so it is important to note that there is no right way to do grief.


  1. Get Out of the House:  Spending the anniversary of a loss, whether it be a death or some other event, can make the day even more painful make sure that you don’t spend it alone.  Find a friend or a loved one who you feel comfortable confiding in and spend time with that person.  If you go out and you spend the whole day thinking about the person or event at the very least you won’t be alone.  If you go out and don’t spend the whole day thinking about the person or event, you will end the day on a positive note and have a shared your day with a loved one.



  1. Get Plenty of Rest: In the wake of a loss our schedules can get thrown off balance and we can lose sleep.  When we lose sleep our bodies do not have time to recover from stress and we can get sick.  When we get sick we often miss out and have to take time off work or school as we recover from illness.  The anniversary of a death or tragic event can leave us reeling and send us back to the place where we started when the loss occurred if we aren’t careful which is why it’s important to be mindful of how much we sleep and to pay attention to the quality of the sleep we are getting.


  1. Don’t Forget to Eat: When our schedules get thrown off balance we often forget to eat because we get busy or lose our appetite and we don’t eat because we don’t feel like it.  Sometimes we have to be very, very intentional in the way we manage our lives and this is also true when it comes to our diet.  It is important that we remember to be intentional and not skip meals on the day of an anniversary of the death or traumatic event.



  1. Remember: The first few anniversaries following a death or traumatic event filled with memories of those lost, but over time these memories fade. As time goes on and years pass it becomes harder to remember which is why it is important to be intentional and think about the thing that happened.  You may have an old photo album filled with pictures or there may be a story on the news about the event or person on the anniversary of the death or event.  Remembering can take many forms and change over time, but spending time thinking about this past event can help you realize what you lost and how you’ve changed.  Some questions you could ask yourself are:  How has this event changed me?  Has it changed me in a way I wanted to change?  What can I do if it has changed me in a way I did not want to change?


Then just like that the merry go round starts back up and life starts again.  The anniversary of the death or traumatic event doesn’t last forever and hopefully can strategies can help to make a painful experience a little less intense.


Learning from the Death of Robin Williams

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I don’t know about you but Robin Williams was always one of my favorite actors. Growing up I enjoyed watching movies, and I especially liked Aladdin, Hook, and Jumanji. It is for that reason that the death of Robin Williams caught my attention, and I know that it has been the same for others. Over the past week and half, I have seen countless Facebook statuses, and blog posts about his death. Many are looking to learn from this tragic event and it is with that in mind that I am writing. Mental illness is one of the most prevalent diseases in the US but unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to these disorders and those who have been diagnosed. Often times people fall through the cracks, and they don’t get the help they need. Sometimes, people become so distraught that they start to wrestle with suicidal ideation. Oftentimes people miss the warning signs but if we stop for a second we can figure out what the signs are. The following are lists of warning signs and risk factors for suicide:

Warning Signs

1. Preoccupation with death
this is manifested in: a. a person expressing the desire to die or kill him or herself.
b. a person actively seeking ways to kill him or herself.

2. Feelings of hopelessness

3. Feelings of being trapped or being in a desperate situation.

4. Expressing that one is a burden on others

5. Loss of interest in regular hobbies or activities

6. Withdrawal from other people

7. Feelings of anxiety, anger and/or reckless behavior

8. Insomnia or Hypersomnia- excessive sleeping, or lack of sleeping

9. Giving things away

10. A temporary feeling of relief after feeling distraught for some time- sometimes a person may feel relieved after deciding to act on his or her suicidal ideation. friends and family may believe that this individual is doing better, but that is not always that case.

Risk Factors
1. Mental disorders, more specifically
a. Mood disorders: Depression, and Bipolar Disorder
b. Schizophrenia
c. Borderline or Antisocial Personality Disorder

2. Previous suicide attempt or a history of suicidal ideation

3. Family history of attempted of completed suicide

4. Physical illness
a. either in the family
b. or in the person dealing with suicidal ideation

5. Death of loved one

6. Loss
a. of a relationship: separation, divorce, or break up of a non- married couple
b of a job
c. of financial security

7. Alcohol or drug use

8. Lack of Support

It is my hope that if we look for the risks and warning signs we may be able to prevent someone from making the decision to end his or her life. There is still so much to be learned, but if we stop and look we might be able to help someone through a seemingly impossible event, or season of life. Robin Williams is one of many people who died from the side effects of depression and hopefully, we can learn from his death. Hopefully, in time we will grow and become more self aware of one of the leading causes of death.