by Alyce Barry –
In our last issue, I asked our readers what had changed for them in the four years since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
I realized belatedly that what I’d really wanted to ask was, Are you, in your life today, still feeling the influence of the attacks in the way you think about security, or watch the news, or view government, or see the world?
I asked because I have felt the influence, and I think about it each year as the anniversary of the attacks approaches. This year, with the bombings in London and Egypt, it seems particularly appropriate to write about it. I felt the influence in three ways.
The first thing I became aware of following the attacks was a feeling of powerlessness. Sitting at home, watching coverage of the attacks and their aftermath, I felt powerless to do anything meaningful to help. Oh, I gave as much money as I could to the relief funds, but that seemed insignificant compared with the suffering involved. In examining this feeling more closely, I learned that it was related to the events of that day in my own life. My daughter was quite sick at the time, and an unknown factor — resistance to the medication she was taking — was causing a frightening roller coaster of symptoms. I felt powerless to make her better, just as I had felt powerless to help victims of the attacks.
After it became available the following year, I used the CD that Shadow Work® Seminars produced, “The 9/11 Grieving Process CD” (now out of print), to release that feeling of powerlessness and to see confidently once again that I am not powerless to help people at all.
The CD, which is a special version of Shadow Work®’s unique Tombstone process, reminded me that I was carrying that feeling of powerlessness not because there was anything wrong with me but because I am a deeply loving person who feels the suffering of others and wants to aid them by bonding with them. As you know if you’re familiar with the Tombstone, the poetry at its center describes the identity that the process helped me reclaim:
Love isn’t something you do,
it’s something you are.
And if you cannot love joyfully,
then you will love painfully.
But love you will,
because love you are…
The second thing I became aware of was a persistent need to watch or listen to the news. At the time, I was working in an office, and I subscribed to an email alert service from CNN. I interrupted my work to read the alerts many times during the day. It wasn’t enough to read a newspaper or catch the tail end of a newscast; I had to get the headlines at the top of the hour, because I knew if anything new had happened, I would be sure to hear about them then.
It was more than a year after the attacks that I became aware that my focus on the news wasn’t just “an active interest in the world” but was in fact a compulsion; it felt excessive and slightly morbid. Again with the help of the CD, I learned that I was trying to be faithful to those who had died in the attacks. Somehow, if I wasn’t keeping up on the very latest developments, I wasn’t being fully faithful to their memory and to all that they and their families had suffered. I was able to release that compulsion and take another way to stay faithful to their memory, by writing about the attacks.
The third thing I became aware of was a difficulty in really grieving the event, in expressing the sadness that pictures of the event evoked. I lived in the Chicago area, and I felt unable to grieve unless I had something to physically touch. So I flew to New York City on December 1st of that year. I walked from Penn Station down to Ground Zero and witnessed the changes in this city that I loved, where I had lived and worked briefly earlier in my life. I walked around the site and looked at it from every angle and waited for the tears to come. To my surprise, being there didn’t help; I was no more able to grieve there than I had been at home.
It wasn’t until after I returned home that I discovered that I’d been feeling this way as a memorial to my father-in-law, who had died some years earlier. When he died, his body was unavailable for the family to mourn over, just as so many of the bodies of the victims of 9/11 were unavailable for their families. Having no body to touch had meant a lack of closure for me. Again, using the 9/11 CD, I was able to release the pain of that earlier experience and find closure with his death, and then begin to grieve for those who were lost in the attacks.
If you have a story you’d like to share, please email me at [email protected].
Alyce Barry is a Certified Shadow Work® Group Facilitator and Coach in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She is the author of Practically Shameless available in paperback and on audio CD and as an e-book.
This article originally appeared in our free email newsletter in July 2005. To subscribe, visit our subscription page.
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