Today you’ll probably be reading lots of posts, shares, comments and recaps of the 9/11 tragedy that took place eleven years ago in New York City. You’ll see lots of footage on news channels. You’ll hear friends and family reliving how horrified and upset they were that day. What’s really going on here? Are we honoring anyone’s memory when we live in fear of a date? When we dredge up every iota of sorrow, guilt, horror and pain? Actually, no. And that’s why I’m writing this post, to help you shift your perception of 9/11 as well as any other events in your life that produce ongoing grief.
Someone I know lost her brother on that day — he was working in one of the WTC towers when they were hit. She was telling friends recently about the event as if it had just happened, sobbing and saying she couldn’t move on, she knew she’d never be happy, that she felt guilty she had survived (although she was actually thousands of miles away in another city at the time and could not have physically saved him even if they were in the building together), that she could barely breathe each year when September 11th rolled around. She dreaded the date. She couldn’t work. Couldn’t be around friends. Didn’t want to live. She literally was making herself feel sick to her stomach…
About something she could not change.
Grief can keep us stuck. There’s no denying that. But it doesn’t have to.
Grief is meant to be a temporary state as we adjust to the physical absence of a loved one. Since we don’t want to “lose” them, we cling to the idea that by reliving the day they died again and again, and beating ourselves with the agony of loss, that somehow we’ll change what happened. What? Yes, it really is true — take a look at what you’re thinking. Don’t you have some shred of childish belief inside that if you go over every detail yet again, this time it won’t be real? This time it will just be a nightmare you’ll wake up from?
Once you grasp the concept that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience on this planet — that we all chose to come here and have adventures, learn how to love, learn how to create relationships and bring forth expressions of our creativity — then you can also understand the related concept: that when someone dies, they are NOT lost to you. The analogy of a ship leaving the shore you are on and then “vanishing” over the horizon is very applicable to this. Someone of a limited understanding might think that ship fell off the edge of the world and those people were gone forever. We know from experience, and our greater awareness of the earth’s roundness and what the horizon is, that the ship is headed to another shore. There’s a beautiful poem about that very concept, and I’ll put it at the bottom of this post.
The people who leave this life are not gone. But when we cling to the day they died, when we fret over their absence in our regular routine, and agonize that we cannot talk to them and touch them and enjoy their company, we are missing the big picture.
What if you did this instead, to shift into joy:
- Honor what the person did in their life. The love they experienced, the love they wanted, even if they were not skilled in asking for it (for example if the person had a bad temper, you can let go of that and realize they were trying to ask for love but didn’t know how)
- Ask yourself: what would I say to him or her, if they were right here, right now, and I could have a conversation to wrap things up for now?
- Have the conversation. Sit down in a calm, quiet atmosphere. Imagine the person you are grieving is right there with you. Perhaps it will help you make a mental connection if you hold your hand out, palm up, resting on your thigh, and sense that the loved one is taking your hand during the conversation. Tell them what is on your mind. Ask them for help in moving on. Ask them what you can do in YOUR life to honor their memory at the highest level possible!
- Listen for the answers. Stay still. Stay calm. The answers will come to you — maybe not right then, but later that day, or even as you are falling asleep, you might feel the words coming to you, simple words, such as: Be love. Be happy. We’ll be together again.
Although it might seem simplistic, try it! Be willing to move on from being stuck in a hole with old memories that are preventing you from fulfilling your own purpose for being here. The longer you stay stuck in grief and sorrow over the past, the longer you are withholding your “you-ness” from this world.
Let me know what happens when you do this exercise. I care. And I know what it’s like to let go of grief.
to your peace of mind,
Gone From My Sight
by Henry Van Dyke
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts
for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says:
“There, she is gone!”
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, “There, she is gone!”
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad
shout: “Here she comes!”
And that is dying.