I wasn’t going to write about it. It’s a tough topic, albeit one that has defined my generation. Like most every American of a certain age, I have vivid memories of where I was and what I was doing when I heard, and have spent my entire adult life since watching the aftermath. Just a few weeks ago, we talked here about dealing with the fallout of ending a military conflict we engaged in only because of it. September 11.
For some of us, it’s a day of reflection. For others of us, it’s a day of avoidance. And yet, for others of us, it’s not a different day at all anymore. After all, it’s an anniversary that’s old enough to vote, nearly old enough to drink. Besides that, other things have happened on the date, before and after 2001. As significant of an event it was, so much so that we simply call it by the day, other events have space on the calendar with it.
It’s like this for national, generational trauma like 9/11. It’s also like this for personal, individual traumas that we each suffer. We think often of celebrating birthdays and other happy moments. We forget that we – celebrate isn’t the right word – commemorate? Note? The less positive times we go through too, though perhaps less intentionally. The dates of breakups, divorces, deaths, and other traumas can stick with us whether we want them to or not.
It’s not so much that we can forget what happened on those days, but that life moves on. Sometimes, it moves until time brings us enough distance to ease the rawness and we barely think about the anniversary at all. Sometimes, we can, must, put the memory aside enough most days so that we can function in a world that has other things going on, then some days, it washes over us anyway. Sometimes, we seemingly have no choice and we drown in the memory more often than not. Sometimes, the emotional impact of even that day is overshadowed by another event in our lives that has happened to fall on that date because if we let every important date become sacred, we would have no days left.
There’s an analogy of grief as a ball in the box of your soul, hitting a button named pain as it bounces around. Many times, you will hear that the ball will shrink with time, hit that button less and less often. That may be true. But it may require you to put some effort into making it smaller, and it may decide to grow again occasionally. Worse, you might acquire a number of balls bouncing around in there, knocking against each other in unpredictable ways, driving one or another into the button. Not all of them will be labeled grief as in the death of a person we love. Some will be called grief as in the loss of a dream, a vision of what was. There is hope, though. There will be times when all of the balls bounce away from the button, or when they lie still and unmoving for a moment. In those moments, we can enjoy what is and discover what could be.
So for this weekend, whatever it means for you now, I hope all of the grief and loss in your life allow you peace.