We just had another 9/11 anniversary and many posted their obligatory “Never Forget” posts on social media. Those who were truly affected, however, truly never forget. They live with it daily. They were there and still suffer health problems. Maybe they lost a loved one or a coworker. Maybe they were so affected by that day that they chose a new career. Some are so changed that they won’t board a plane or go near a major city. We truly don’t want to forget what happened that day, but we’re also tasked with moving on in life. So, how do we remember, honor the fallen, and move on without feeling disrespectful or detached?
Commemorating the Lost
First, we must acknowledge the brokenness left behind by commemorating those lost. Whether 9/11, a public shooting, or a bombing, we always want to honor the fallen. Some wear a badge, some wear a mask, some carry medical supplies, and some are civilians. No matter who they are, we remember them with respect. A memorial, flowers at the site, a post, anything once in a while.
Perhaps the best way to remember them is through their families and loved ones. Their families lost the most. Share a story, comment on a good time, say something nice to honor the lost loved one. Those who have lost someone appreciate hearing the good memories. It helps to know others still remember.
Disband the Guilt
Survivor’s guilt is awful – so much more could be said about this – and it’s crippling to some. Help one another to accept where you are now. The past cannot be changed and life goes on whether we want it to or not. There’s no reverse gear in life. We can wonder all we want, but we must move forward. If guilt plagues you, don’t let it fester; seek help. Seek a life coach or a therapist. The one who you lost loves you too. Would he or she want you to feel guilty?
The hardest part is moving on. Families and close loved ones will have the hardest time with this. They won’t want to see the world acting normal again because nothing feels normal for them. They will deal with a new normal and they won’t like it. Grief doesn’t go away; it changes. People learn to live with it. It doesn’t always lessen, but it often gets easier. The best way to honor those lost is to pick up and keep going, and take their memory with you all the while. We never do forget, but we do best by moving on with their memory close.
It’s Okay to Keep Living
Those with friends experiencing loss may start to feel awkward being happy around them, as though their happiness is somehow disrespectful around one who is mourning. This can lead to isolation, leaving that friend who’s mourning out of things, excluding them. Don’t do that. Keep your friend involved and let your friend decide whether or not to join in. They deserve happiness and may find comfort in your joy. Keep it respectful but be sure to keep the friend included. This is the path to moving on.
More anniversaries will happen and people will sometimes forget the date, forget the place or circumstances even. But no one truly forgets a person they knew. Years may go by, but it’s not the building or the company or the car; it’s the person we hold close. It’s okay to remember and move on, and we will never forget.