Practical Advice for Facing Sad Times

September 11th is a difficult day for so many Americans and others around the world.

Whether you were directly affected by the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, or the decade of war that has followed – or have simply watched it all unfold from afar with a heavy heart, the stress and sadness you felt that day can still be painful now, even 10 years later.

I watched in absolute horror as the events unfolded that day. I was glued to the TV or radio for months after aching to hear developments, updates, good news and even bad.

Like many of you, I cried in sadness for the families who lost their loved ones. I cried in admiration for the rescue workers that toiled away for days and weeks. I cried in fear for what this would mean to my children and their children in an America that would forever be changed.

Through those days, other difficult times in my life, and now going into this emotional day of remembrance, I’ve found comfort through coping strategies that I learned from the beautiful, strong women in my life. I thought that this would be a good day to share these guiding principles with you:

Allow Yourself to Cry

When I was 8 years old, my great-grandmother passed away. She was a sweet woman who doted on me as if I were a princess.

I still remember walking into the funeral home terrified of doing something wrong, or seeing something creepy… until I saw my great-grandmother laid out in the front of the room. Then, the sadness hit me – hard.

Luckily, my grandmother was standing nearby. She grabbed my hand and lead me to a corner of the room. There, she said, “It’s okay. You and I can sit back here and cry together.”

What a smart, wonderful grandmother I had. She knew I needed permission to cry. I’ve carried that “permission to cry” with me since.

In case nobody has ever said it to you before, today I’d like to tell you, “It’s okay. Cry.”

Know Your Limits

Once, while we were discussing how people handle grief, my mother said something that stuck with me, “When bad things happen, they become part of your life. But, they don’t have to become your life.”

Whether you are watching 9/11 documentaries, listening to families re-telling stories from that fateful day, or remembering your own reactions to the horrible news, you will find a limit at which enough is enough.

As horrible as a situation can be, YOU have the ability to control whether it is simply a sad piece of your life – or if it dictates your entire being.

Even if you can’t find the silver lining in the cloud, make a conscience decision to not allow yourself to become that cloud. Accept that it is there, but don’t forget the rest of the big blue sky around it.

Channel Your Energy

When I was young, I thought that my aunts were nuts. Anytime someone was in the hospital, or a family was at a funeral home, or somebody hit a rough spot… they started assembling baskets.

They’d pick a theme like cookies, flowers, food, household goods, crafts, coloring books or stuffed animals – and they’d fill a basket, or several baskets with piles of whatever they had chosen… and they’d deliver the baskets.

As a teen and even young adult, I didn’t get it. I thought that they were crazy to think that their baskets were really doing anything – and they seemed to work so hard on them.

And then, one day, one of their baskets arrived on my doorstep. I was returning home from the hospital after having a miscarriage, and waiting on my front porch was a basket filled with the makings for strawberry shortcakes.

Finally, I got it.

There was nothing my aunts could say to make me feel better. There really wasn’t anything that they could even do. But, that basket meant that they cared… a lot.

It also meant that they made good use of the energy generated by their worry and grief for me. Instead of talking about it, wishing they could make me feel better or sitting alone fretting – they pooled their energy together, whipped up one of their baskets and delivered it to my door.

What can you do to channel your grief? It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture. You don’t have to raise millions of dollars or start an international initiative. But, you can do something… anything really… simply in the name of doing something “nice”.

The recipient of your kindness will feel great… and so will you.

As we reflect on all of the lives that were changed on 9/11, and allow ourselves to run the gamut of emotions today – I hope that the guidance that has brought me comfort over the years will also help you.

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