You cannot grieve forever

Last Friday, I went to my aerobics class. Look up. Look down. Look over your shoulder. Then over the other shoulder. Do windshield wipers with your feet. And so on.
As usual, we sat in a mirrored room with music playing. And to my surprise, I actually enjoyed the exercise and the music, especially the familiar rendition of “On the Street Where You Live” from “My Fair Lady.”
Somehow–in that comfortable, supportive environment–the horrific events of the week seemed more bearable. And hope was rekindled.
Still, I’ll never forget how I felt last Tuesday morning when I logged on to AOL only to find that the World Trade Center towers no longer were standing.
Memories of lower Manhattan flooded my mind, and especially one memorable occasion. I was attending a conference and was free as a bird because I already had given my presentation.
I was ready for fun that night. That fun took place in the beautiful restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center with my colleagues–Nancy, Larry, Janet, Arthur, Laura, Cindy, and Hal.
Last Tuesday, I knew immediately that New York City would never be the same for me personally or for the world. And tragically, I also knew the whole world had “changed from top to bottom” in the words of one novelist.
That was a lot of information to digest in one surreal morning.
Actually, it felt like the end of the world. And I asked the question–when had I felt like this before? After Hiroshima, when the anxiety turned to fear. When my wonderful, loving father died much too young. During the Cuban missile crisis when our targeted city was put on alert.
When President Kennedy was shot.
And then I remembered an article I read recently in The New York Times historical section from April 14, 1885. The headline was an understated “Awful Event,” followed by “President Lincoln Shot by an Assassin.”
Expressing the country’s grief, the newspaper said “the parting of his family with the dying President is too sad for description.” And the article reported that “the entire city tonight presents a scene of wild excitement, accompanied by violent expressions of indignation, and the profoundest sorrow; many shed tears.”
It went on to say that “the military authorities have dispatched mounted patrols in every direction to arrest the assassins. The whole metropolitan police are likewise vigilant for the same purpose.”
So 150 years ago, the citizens of our great nation felt like I did last Tuesday. Outraged, powerless, grief-stricken, angry, helpless, anguished and, fearful.
At a terrifying time like this, we must ponder a moment and learn from the past. Terence, who lived more than 2000 years ago, once said, “I am a man; nothing human is alien to me.”
The most terrible tragedies have been experienced by those who have gone before, and they have conquered their grief and fear. We, too, are a strong people.
We have come together before in community and caring, and we will do it again. We’ll be a little kinder. We’ll be more likely to help each other out. We’ll be forgiving of little things. We’ll share each other’s sorrow.
And we’ll help each other to go on living in useful ways.
Whether the tragedy is personal or collective, you cannot grieve forever. Life must go on. And together, we are brave enough to rediscover the joy of living.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist.

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