9/11 Grief Never Goes Away, But I Just Got Better At Dealing With It

"People often ask why I grant reporters interviews to discuss 9/11... There are three main reasons I do it."

By Iliana Guibert
February 7, 2020

When asked to write about grief, I was hesitant as I’m no expert but then I thought – I lost my dad suddenly when I was 16 years old and on September 11, 2001, I lost my husband, Thomas, as he attended a meeting on the 92nd floor of the North Tower. So perhaps I do have some things to share.  

My first words of advice are that you must go through your grief.  Don’t avoid it, don’t bury or try to go around it.  I don’t think we ever get over losing a loved one and I don’t feel time heals all wounds. I think we just get better at dealing with it. It’s not cookie cutter as each loss is unique and we need to find what works best for us.  There are many factors to consider: where you are in your life, your relationship to the person, the status of the relationship, the circumstances surrounding their death, other loved ones left behind that may need to be taken care of and the list goes on.  

In the case of my husband, Thomas, it was a sudden and public death felt around the world. An event that changed all our lives. That day and the days and months to follow, I went into auto-pilot survival mode.  I knew I had to get our 4 year old daughter back to her daily routine not just for her sake but for mine as well.  I knew I was now the sole bread winner.  I had to be the mommy and the daddy. I created new family traditions and kept his memory alive by telling her stories about her dad, going through photo albums and watching videos, pointing out ways in which she resembled him, staying very connected to his family. 

We’d cry and laugh together, talked about the future in a positive and hopeful way.  We joined a support group early on made up of other 9/11 families where we bonded and shared our stories.  We’re still in contact with some of those families today.  

People often ask why I grant reporters interviews to discuss 9/11 and that it must be hard and yes, sometimes it’s very hard. There are three main reasons I do it.

The first is, if no one talks about what happened, how are people going to know.  I almost feel a sense of responsibility to share my story of what it felt like to keep calling Thomas and getting his voice mail, having to tell the family that he was actually at the WTC that morning, sharing the fact that he got through to me on the phone just minutes before the building collapsed, what he said to me, what I heard other people saying, sharing with you that although they knew it would take a miracle to escape that nightmare, till the end they were trying. 

The second reason for opening up to people about all this, is a selfish one – for me it’s therapeutic, it’s cathartic.  I can tell you when I started writing this there were tears but by the middle I was sobbing to the point where I had to stop, compose myself and then continue. 

And lastly, if by sharing this story I can help someone get through a tough time in their life – someone who perhaps reads it and feels hope or is inspired to fight and get through their loss and pain – well wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing. 
In spite of the pain and evil the world felt on 9/11 there was and continues to be so much love and beauty in the world.  It’s there, we just have to take a moment to see it, feel it and contribute to it. 

Outlier Disclaimer

This site is for educational purposes and not a substitute for professional medical care by a doctor or otherwise qualified medical professional. The information provided by Outlier Magazine is on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services.

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