The tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States is likely to stir emotions for the thousands of people in the United States who are grieving the deaths of a loved one who died during the attacks a decade ago.
The anniversary also poses an emotional challenge for the families of those with loved ones who died in the Global War on Terror in Iraq or Afghanistan, many of whom enlisted in the military, in part, due to the 9/11 attacks.
TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, offers the following tips for those seeking to express sympathy and support to those who are grieving:
Realize that grief is long-term and life-altering. The impact of the traumatic death of a loved one is significant and long-lasting. It takes on average 5-7 years for survivors who have experienced the traumatic death of a loved one to reach their new normal. Even after reaching that “normal,” life is not the same for those left behind. Family dynamics are altered, and survivors may have changed too.
Know that grief is not something people get over. Rather, it is something we learn to live with. After a period of mourning, many learn to live again and find joy again in their lives, but they will always carry the loss with them.
Respect their privacy. While some welcome public attention and want their loved one’s name remembered and spoken often in public forums and venues, others choose a more private path. Many families of those who died at the Pentagon on 9/11 and in the Global War on Terror, experienced significant media attention at the time of their loved ones’ deaths and in the immediate days following. Ask survivors if they are comfortable with others knowing about their survivor status before sharing it.
Be understanding. The anniversary of a death is often significant for survivors, even if it falls a decade later. Realize that these may be sensitive days for survivors left behind. If you personally know someone who is impacted, continue to maintain contact and regular activities with them. But understand if they need a break or space.
Send a card. A card can express your thoughtful concern and be an important reminder to a grieving family of your care and support.
Simply express your condolences. If you talk with a family member, say you are sorry for their loss, or say you want to offer your condolences. That’s enough. Avoid saying things like “I understand exactly how you feel,” or “It was his (or her) time,” or “He (or she) wouldn’t want for you to be sad.”
Show your support. Support programs that provide long-term bereavement help to families of our fallen. Bereavement support can be vital in the months and years to come as families work toward this new normal. Donate or volunteer with TAPS through 800.959.TAPS (8277) or www.taps.org.
Express your gratitude. To show you care for the families of our fallen and the families they have left behind, you can write a note, share a photo thank you, or post a video thank you, at the Give a Thousand Thanks website. The website is located at www.GiveAThousandThanks.org. Participation is free and open to the public. Many survivors have told us they have visited the website and found support in looking at the messages.