The 20th anniversary of 9/11 was very emotional for me. Although I didn’t know anyone who died in the attacks, hearing the names of those who were lost, and listening to the stories of strength and survival inspired me.  I also cried a lot.

You might be aware that I suffered the loss of my dad, my mom, and my husband within a 22-month period.  And you might also be aware that, for several years, I have been a volunteer at Adam’s Place (a grief center for children who’ve experienced loss).  Helping people navigate the extremely personal journey of grief is something that has defined me as much as anything else in my life.  And I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

One thing I’ve come to learn is that grief is a very personal emotion.  No two people experience loss in the same way, nor is there a roadmap about how to handle it.  There can be no right or wrong way to navigate through the death of a loved one.  Each of us operates within our own unique timetable.  It took me a year to move my late husband’s clothes out of our closet.  A colleague of mine who recently lost his wife gave away her things after a week.  No rules.  No judgments.

Another thing I’ve learned is that giving sympathy and support to someone who’s grieving is very important.  Receiving that sympathy and support is equally as important.

For those of you (us) who have difficulty asking someone else for help, please try a little harder because the rewards are mutually beneficial.  For those of you (us) who tend to say, “let me know if there’s anything you need,” I would like to suggest another option.  Turn that well-meaning offer into something specific:  “I’m going to make lasagna for you and your family.  Would you rather I dropped it off on Tuesday or Wednesday?”  

My next point is this:  regardless of the specific nature of the loss, it is vital for a grieving person to learn coping skills.  This is a broad term for tools which can be as varied as the people who need to utilize them. Channeling difficult emotions into tangible acts or activities can be stress-relieving, nurturing, and cleansing.  Sometimes we call it self-care, and sometimes we call it self-preservation.  No matter the words we use, coping skills are essential in moving forward after loss.  

My own coping skill toolbox is eclectic.  I do yoga and I bake cookies.  I also read, knit, and watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory (sometimes all at the same time).  If you have any coping strategies, please share them with me.

Moving forward after loss is a deeply personal journey.  I’d like to leave you with a pearl of wisdom and although I don’t actually know to whom these words belong, I’m going to pass the sentiment along to you:

You don’t get over it, you get on with it.