Grief School: Lesson #4 Today, We Remember, Pt. 2

Yesterday was 9/11 – a day when as a nation we stopped and remembered the events of that date back in 2001. Our social media feeds were filled with pictures, videos, and somber graphics. We shared the names of those individuals who lost their lives in the attacks.

Dare I say – our national grief was on full display. Even eighteen years later, we still grieve that loss. We honored that grief by remembering those touched by the events (basically all of us) – especially the heroes and their families who suffered the most on that fateful day.

Yesterday as I prepared a memorial post for this site, I was reminded of a concern that so many grieving individuals face – but particularly those who’ve lost a child – and that is sharing memories of their children.

Bereaved parents recount experiences of sharing a memory on FaceBook or Instagram of their children only to receive negative feedback. They receive comments along the lines of “It’s been three years already. Isn’t it time to move on?”

A lot of you have a really puzzled expression right now. Me too.

I don’t recall seeing one comment yesterday in all of the hundreds of social media posts on my feed to the effect of “It’s been eighteen years already. Isn’t it time to move on?”

Did you?

How would you have reacted if you had? In all likelihood, you would have become enraged and given the commenter a piece of your electronic mind.

The way we handle national grief can provide some guidance on a better way to handle individual grief.

“It’s different.,” you say, “Thousands lost their lives on September 11, 2001.”

Is it?

For over 3,000 families, yesterday was just another day in their grief journey. While we peeked in for our annual support, they are dealing with the pain and loss the other 364 days of the year as well – individually, in their homes, in their cars, in grocery lines.

Every single day – tens of thousands of our neighbors are facing similar journeys. Think about that. How many people are grieving 9/12 – alone? How should we react if we see a picture of their loved one in our news feed? It’s been longer than a year. Should they have moved on? Stopped remembering?

What defines how long one may mourn the loss of a loved one? What is the cut-off for sharing memories? Do you have to share your “death date” with thousands of others in order to qualify for the extended version of grieving?

It breaks my heart to know that not every bereaved parent is supported and encouraged when they share memories of their children. I am so grateful that I’ve not experienced any type of “social media shaming” for sharing pictures and memories of Brooke. And, I’m going to go out on a limb and speak for every bereaved parent out there – we’d love to have new pictures and memories to share with you all. We share what we have because it is all that we have.

Just as a day of collective sharing helps us heal as a nation, sharing is a huge part of individual healing. If you have a friend who has lost someone close and they share a memory or picture, they are giving you an opportunity to step into their journey. When you step into the journey in a loving and supportive way (like we all did yesterday), you become part of the healing.

That is a powerful gift. Don’t skip that last part. We each hold so much power to hurt or to heal. Raise your hand if you’ve not always used that power for good? {{hand raised here}}

Some of you might be shaking your heads in frustration because you have that one friend or family member who “posts pictures just for attention.” I don’t know your friends or family members. Even if they are “attention seeking,” the same holds true for them. They’ve invited you into their grief journey. If we cannot enter that journey in an uplifting way – then we shouldn’t accept accept the invitation. Or at least delay until we are prepared to enter it with an open mind and open heart.

The summary of today’s lesson – no more grief double standards. No more grief shaming. If there is no expiration date on mourning national losses, then there is no expiration date on mourning individual losses. If sharing memories and commemorating losses is encouraged for communal losses, then the same is true for commemorating individual losses.

After all, when the dust settles – there are only individual losses.

Dear Father, this grief thing is hard. Sometimes, we handle it “well” and other times we fall on our faces. Hard. It’s a bumpy voyage. When we are invited into another’s journey, send your Spirit of grace, mercy, compassion, comfort, and hope before us to light the way. When we struggle to find the patience to walk alongside another, remind us to treat them as we’d have them treat us. This we pray in the name of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen!


Note: This post is not in anyway intended to downplay the significance of a day like 9/11. On the contrary, the post is intended to raise awareness to the hidden “9/11s” that take place on the other 364 days out of the year.

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