Writing may be a way to ease the pain. On sleepless nights, when nothing else worked, I wrote in a journal. I poured out my despair, horror, anger, jealousy and fear – all of the hurt and pain in my heart. Page after page, it helped to get it all out. I wrote poetry late at night, watching the moon through the window. I asked why over and over. I wrote to David. I told him how much I love him. I told him how we all love him and miss him. I wrote down all of the things I couldn’t say to anyone.
A grieving mother in my email group poured her heart out in beautiful poetry. Another almost never sent messages but wrote short powerful verses to communicate with us. Poetry expressed the feelings they could not put in ordinary words. I started writing this book about two years after 9/11.
Writing down memories of your child helps you, and if there are grandchildren, will be a wonderful treasure for them someday.
Music, Candles, Poems
Soothing music and candles are at least a distraction and at best a source of solace. Somehow the light and warmth and symbolism help a bit. Lighting candles is a popular way for bereaved parents to honor each other’s children on their birthdays and on the anniversaries of their deaths (called angel dates). I listened to music with no words, only soothing, rippling, peaceful music. I never listened to sad songs or songs to remind me of Dave in the beginning, they were just too painful.
Reading might be helpful too. I didn’t read anything that might remind me of what happened to Dave. Over the years I have found that there is no getting away from September 11. It’s a rare day that goes by, even eleven years later, that there isn’t something in the media or somewhere in the public domain about September 11. Even on a PBS show about songbirds they featured a woman who had lost her husband on that day. Sometimes it’s very hard to escape the reminders.
Back then, I mostly read a lot of poetry and worked crossword puzzles like a mad woman.
Scrapbooking is another source of comfort for you and your family, and a way to be busy and feel useful. My daughter, Becky, made me a precious “Dave” scrapbook that I treasure, and will pass on to his children. Some grieving parents put up websites to honor their children. There are free services online to help you get started. A memorial garden is another way to honor them, and also have a spot to sit for quiet reflection. I know a woman who made memorial quilts for victims of 9/11’s families. Any way you can find to remember and pay tribute to your child will help you find some comfort too.
I didn’t want to leave home for a long time after David died, but eventually I had to get away from the house. I had been a ballroom dancer before September 11, and at some point I turned to dance to ease the pain. For three hours a week the music and movement eased the pain for short periods of time. Some of my online friends played racquetball, worked in the garden, walked, ran, cycled, swam, anything to get up and get moving again. It is a huge step.
Your child’s friends can be an amazing comfort and source of stories and anecdotes about aspects of your child you never knew. Dave’s friends and shipmates were always ready to share stories with me. I learned about Dave the clown and Dave the respected and loved naval officer. A friend and co-worker of his who survived the attack on the Pentagon offered to tell me everything that happened that day. I’ve never had the courage to take him up on the offer. He was severely burned, and in spite of his condition, insisted on attending Dave’s memorial service.
Talk to Your Child
I visited my daughter in California in November of 2001. I was numb with pain and the knowledge that I would never hear David’s voice again, never see him, hug him, or talk to him again in this world. I drove to the beach and sat on a log staring out to sea. I talked to David and asked him why this had happened. I felt an answer in my heart, “it’s complicated mom.” Then I heard, “don’t hate anybody.” I could visualize him in a navy blue windbreaker he wore to play golf and some khaki shorts. I really felt him there with me. On my way down the beach to the car I found a red heart-shaped rock that fit perfectly into my hand. I took it with me and carried it everywhere I went for months. Every time I feel far from David I hold it tight. It helped to hold onto something I felt he had put in my path. He wasn’t gone; he was still with me.
A mother I met who lost her daughter on one of the planes, used to sit in her daughter’s room and talk to her. Finally, one day a music box in the room began to play. Miriam just wanted a sign. Sometimes I think our lost children speak to our hearts if we listen really hard.