- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Do you remember where you were September 11? No, not last year when al Qaeda terrorist attacked the United States, but last week as we thought about our life-altering losses? Some stood silently at ground zero. Others dropped to their knees near the closest altar. Many tried to forget, or at least hide from, their hurt.
But who could escape our dawn-to-dark day of mass mourning? Will September 11 become our newest national holiday? A day to let grief go public?
No matter how hard some tried to ignore it, I didn't talk to a single soul last week who didn't give voice to grief in some form or fashion. Tears and tissues flowed freely like flags flying high and proud. Surprisingly, the tearful ceremonies to commemorate the lost lives of the September 11 tragedy also triggered suppressed thoughts of personal losses suffered by those left behind.
To tell the whole truth, some of the private pain had very little to do with terrorists flying jumbo jets into American buildings.
As one friend said, "It's like National Blue Funk Day." I wonder whether it wasn't more like "National Fear Day."
"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear," wrote the famed spiritual writer C.S. Lewis in his book "Grief Observed." This bestseller about a widower's search for solace after the death of his spouse is often recommended by Dawn Higgins, a local grief counselor. "We're still grieving our loss of security in America," said Ms. Higgins, who spent Wednesday in Alexandria with students from Charles Barrett and Maury elementary schools as they planted trees to signify life and hope.
Ms. Higgins, who leads a therapeutic practice appropriately named the Language of Loss, said she received heightened hits on her Web site and saw more stressful clients during the September 11 anniversary programs and press coverage last week. A lot of them reported that they turned off their televisions.
"Everyone was in terrible moods last week, but everyone became more compassionate," she said.
Of those who stayed home or refused to participate in any way, Ms. Higgins said, "They couldn't deal." But "denial has its place, because it gives them a little more time to figure out where they're going to fit [grief] into their lives." Further, she counsels clients that they don't have to bombard themselves with images to face their pain, that they can get to it and through it by doing something that makes them feel good.
"I think when we have the experience of grief in our lives, it can motivate us to do things that are richer," said Ms. Higgins, whose clientele has expanded in the past year to include those who are suffering loss of all kinds.
We are all feeling the loss of last year's attacks because what happened to one American happened to all of us, she notes. We are wondering what happens next. How are things going to change on our own soil? Since September 11, 2001, Americans, I fear, are experiencing more fear of their uncertain future. At its core, that fear surrounds more loss of love.
No matter how we dress it up or try to fake the funk, we all want to love and be loved. We all need that someone special to steady us when the world around us has gone wacky. And it is the loss of that love that makes us feel so uncertain.
Just a thought.
For those peace-loving doves who disdain talk of war, I wonder if at its core, our fear of war is only a cover for our deeper fear that love (or loved ones) will be lost? Life is undoubtedly different now. Our fear of war is deeper now, Ms. Higgins said, because with the terrorist attacks, we know it can hit home.
We've seen, especially with the resurrection of the Pentagon, that we can survive the loss of structures and unimportant stuff, but that living through the loss of a loved one through death, divorce or the dissolution of a loving relationship is often unbearable. Buildings can be reconstructed. But who can put back the pieces of a shattered heart? What so many of us found so difficult to watch and weather as the roll was called and the flowers tossed in a gritty hole where the Twin Towers once stood, was the unmistakable look of lost love on the faces of family survivors. Few, young or old, have escaped an excruciating loss. Few want to be reminded.
We must move on. But we must not forget. To do so only delays our healing.

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