September 21, 2001
Like everyone, I've been alternately stunned, saddened and simply shaking my head in disbelief at the events of the last 10 days. I've been very touched, and inspired by the messages I've received from spiritual teachers, musicians and friends around the world, and have posted some of them here. I've seen some amazing things on TV: a guy whose name I don't know, on a local New York TV station, uncharacteristically closing a newscast with a moving statement about gratitude... Conan O'Brien sharing from the heart... and so much more.
This is the first time I can remember, since I made a little shrine to JFK in 1963, that I've wanted to display the American flag. Now, it feels good to do so....
On Friday, September 14, I flew to my family's home in Pennsylvania. I'm enormously grateful to the US Airways personnel who helped me get there, and feel very lucky that my attendance at my father's 80th birthday party didn't become one more entry on the incomprehensible list of things lost.
Over the years, I've learned a lot about grief and loss from personal experiences and my work with hospice. One of the most important lessons I've learned is that the darkest times in my life have yielded some of the most profound spiritual gifts. Remembering this comforts me now, and reassures me that no life, no death is wasted.
I think the best thing I can offer in this situation is some of the simple but useful things I've learned about how to cope with profound loss:
Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission to feel exactly how you are feeling. Know that your feelings may change without warning, perhaps minute by minute. Small things may cause big emotions, while the big things may leave you feeling numb. Know that your feelings, however scary or overwhelming they seem, won't kill you. Allow yourself to experience them as they come.
Grief comes in many forms: tears and laughter, loud and quiet... Honor your feelings in whatever form they appear. Do not judge yourself or others as inappropriate if the form is not what you think it should be.
For those who have suffered a recent loss before or unrelated to the events of September 11, you may feel that you have no right to grieve after everything that has happened. Know that your loss is as real and important as any other, and be kind to yourself.
Be conscious about your use of alcohol, sugar, tobacco and other mood-altering substances. While it's tempting to want to dull painful feelings, ultimately that only postpones the pain; in the long run, it's easier and healthier to experience the feelings now while they are occurring, rather than covering them up, only to come back more painfully later.
Try to eat nourishing food and get enough rest.
On the other hand, don't be too hard on yourself if you can't stick to your diet right now or feel out of control with eating, shopping or whatever. Give yourself permission to do what you need to do to get through. There have been times in my life when caffeine was my best little anti-depressant, and I decided that was just fine for a while.
Last week I found a couple doses of Rescue Remedy very helpful. It's a Bach flower remedy for use in cases of shock and accidents, available at most health food and new age stores.
Understand that everyone is experiencing the same things you are. If people seem unusually irritable right now, give them - and yourself - the benefit of the doubt.
Don't watch more news than you can handle. It's easy to get caught up in the perpetual coverage, but monitor your emotions, your breathing and how your body feels, and before it's too much, turn off the TV.
Listen to music, read a poem - or write one, take a walk, notice that there are still birds and flowers and sun out there to appreciate. Know that it's normal to feel guilty for surviving, for still being around to appreciate and enjoy life.
Pay attention when you're driving, chopping vegetables, mowing the lawn....
Call upon whatever Higher Power you believe in for comfort and support. If Higher Power doesn't work for you (or even if it does), be inspired by the beauty, heroism and divinity so evident in the people all around us now.
Spend time with people you love and who love you. If you need help, ask for it, and let someone help you. We all have a great desire to help right now, so letting someone help you can be as much of a gift as doing something for someone else. Do what you can for others as well.
Music is one of the most healing things in my life, and, I believe, one of the most powerful tools we have for healing on this planet. I often play at memorials and meditations - please call upon me if I can be of service. Many of you have also used my CDs and tapes to support yourselves and your loved ones through times of grief and loss. I invite you to continue to use my music for your comfort and healing now, and to consider sharing my music, and any music that helps you, with your friends and loved ones.
I don't have the heart to write about my upcoming performances and all the other things I usually say in these posts. As usual, my performance schedule and information about purchasing my music can be found right here on my website 24/7.
We'll be discussing what's going on in the world and how to deal with it on the radio show too, so I encourage you to join us for InnerViews with Liz Sterling every Sunday from noon - 2 PM on WNN 1470 AM as well.
Peace & Love,
Laura Sue, the Silver Nightingale