For the children of those who died on that earth shattering day, September 11 is an anniversary of loss. The memories of loved one (s) who died although always present in their mind, may become more painful as September 11 approaches. Although this date is an anniversary for the country, for those who lost someone that day, it is a personal anniversary of loss. A loss that may feel like it occurred that day rather than nine years ago.
It is important to remember that although distant support systems appreciate that there is an anniversary of loss approaching that they may not feel the pain of that day in exactly the same way. Parents, siblings, cousins who were lost will be grieved and the surviving loved one may once again face the challenges of asking why this had to occur or grieve the way their lives are different because of that loss. Patience is so important for these teens and young adults. Time can make the pain less difficult only if they have the ability to make the transition from the anger of that loss to the acceptance of that loss.
Helping your teen or young adult through this type of pain can include, but is not limited to:
Talk about the person who died that day. Discuss characteristics or traits that your teen or young adult has that remind you of that person in an effort to show them that they are part of that person’s legacy and their loved one can live through them.
Allow the anger and frustration associated with the senselessness of that day, but also challenge the teen or young adult to use that energy to do something that honors the person who died rather than creating more senseless violence or keeping the anger as a way to show they have not forgotten. Sometimes people don’t let go of their grief because they’re afraid it means they have forgotten or will forget the person they loved. Reassure them that this is not the case so they can develop more positive ways to remember their loved one.
An anniversary of loss does not have to be sad. It can involve doing something their loved one might have done to show compassion to others, give of themselves to others in some special way or providing the funds for a necessary resource to help others. These are ways to think of their loved one with a positive memory and ongoing tribute rather than just that day.
Help your teen appreciate that although the day is so significant to them and their country that only they can give power and symbolism to that day in their lives. Yes, it will always be the day their loved one died, but it doesn’t have to be a day of mourning and their loved one can be celebrated every day of the year to help keep them alive for them. The day can be any kind of symbol along with birthdays, Christmas and other special days. These days only have the power you choose to give it. Make it your teen’s day to spend as they want not as they think they should to be a “good” teen honoring their loved one.