Thoughts on 9/11 and Coping With Loss
by Dr. Will Keim

*Editor’s Note: Dr Keim provided this article after the tragic events on September 11, 2001. The content of his article remains true for any situation involving loss and grieving.

As I have traveled this Fall to my appointed duties, students across America have been thinking, talking, studying, and praying about the events of September 11th and since that have changed the way we think, feel, and live. At the University of Wyoming a student asked me if I had any thoughts about coping with grief, a sense of loss, and sadness that accompanies any tragic event.

During my six years as a Hall Director I had several situations in which a student or staff member was faced with an unanticipated event that shook them to their core. The death of a friend, a parent’s divorce, the breakup of an important relationship…these and many other situations can create a sense of fear and hopelessness. I came across the writings of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and they helped me help others. I present to you a summary of the Stages of Grieving.

Stage One: Shock & Denial
“No way…it can’t be happening.” “Tell me it was just a nightmare.” “How could this happen?”

Stage Two: Rage & Anger
“Why me?” “I’m outraged…this should have never happened!” “We got to get back at them for fhis…someone is going to pay.”

Stage Three: Bargaining
“God if you just heal my friend, I will be good the rest of my life.” “Take me instead of her…she is better person.” “Just this once…make it go away.”

Stage Four: Depression
“I am so sad.” “I don’t know how I can go on.” “This ruins everything.”

State Five: Acceptance
“We can’t let this make us live in fear.” “I have to go on…he would have wanted me to.” “I am going to live my life more fully now and let the people I love know I love them.”

I want you to know that moving through the stages takes time and that each individual deals with things differently than the next person. Also, progression through the stages is more manageable if we talk to our roommates, Resident Assistants, Hall Directors, or Counselors. No person is an island and crisis can and should bring us together in community with others who suffer and grieve.

There are two resources I would leave you with: “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”, by Rabbi Harold Kushner, and “A Grief Observed ” by C.S. Lewis.

You may also find the writings of Kubler Ross helpful. The greatest resources though are human resources. Reach out to others in need and your may well find your own sense of loss put in perspective.

The last word belongs to Lisa Beamer, widow of WTC terrorist victim Todd Beamer. She said, “I especially want the terrorists to know that they have not even been able to ruin the lives of the families of the people they killed.” God bless her and know that you have the strength to weather any storm together with your friends. Reach out…help and be helped.

Will Keim, Ph.D.
www.willkeim.com

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