Guest Opinion

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Mourning after: there's no more 'normal'

We're watching the Sept. 11 memorial ceremonies on television. We're wondering if the rest of the world understands what we already know.

That grief never rests.

The victims' families who gathered in New York City for the first anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy are in as much pain today as they were a year ago. You can tell. Tears still tumble down their faces, cries of agony tumble from their eyes.

For them, life will never resume. Nothing will be normal again.

There are not just 3,000 grieving families out there. There 3,000 times 3,000, and more. We are in every village and in every town and in every nation across planet Earth. Those of us who have had loved ones snatched away suddenly and without warning are the only ones who understand what the World Trade Center families now understand: We cannot be consoled; we cannot return to normal.

Grief and grieving never sleep.

We do not want to get better.

We do not want to "heal." We didn't have some disease. We had a mother or father, a sister or brother. They were taken from us in a fire, in a car accident, by drowning, by suicide or by murder. They died from sudden illness, in freak farm accidents or on construction sites. There is a huge hole in our lives where these love ones used to be, and we cannot fill it.

We do not want to get on with our lives. This IS our life. Remembering and grieving.

In a selfish way and unfair way, we envy the WTC families for now.

Millions are grieving with them. Total strangers still join in their mourning. Most of us grieve alone and in silence.

Once there was a funeral, a week or two of flowers, and dozens of sympathy cards. Friends hugged us and church groups brought casseroles to the house. Then it stopped, and we were expected to recover. Whatever that means.

The mourning after the mourning - that is the cruelest of all. You are forced to return to a normal life when nothing feels normal anymore. You grow to loathe "normal" and everything that goes with it. Hey! What's wrong with all you people? How can you go back to school and your jobs and your baseball games and Christmas parties and your family reunions? Don't you understand that life is not the same anymore?

Those who have been driven to their knees by family tragedy are the only ones who know what we mean. And now the World Trade Center families also know. We grieve because we remember. We're not sure if they are painful memories or just memories of pain. But thank God for giving us memory.

Memory is what keeps our lost loved ones alive in our hearts. And this memory, in turn, is what compels us to grieve. It may be a vicious cycle but it's better than no cycle at all.

To most of the world this probably makes no sense. But the World Trade Center families understand what we mean. They understand that they will still be grieving next Sept. 11 and the one after that and the one after that.

Then, just when they thought they had no tears left, their agony will begin again, when the memorials and the television specials have faded away.

They will still be grieving, alone and silently, as the world returns to normal - for everyone else but them.

David Chartrand writes an occasional guest column for Pilot-Tribune readers.