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Thru the Ages: How We Show Grief

I remember the shock of the World Trade Center coming down, and I remember the unifying comfort of shared, national grief.

We huddled in front of television news broadcasts together. We lighted candles together. We stuck magnetic America flags and troop support ribbons on our cars. A sea of grief expression.

grayscale photo of new york city cityscape

Photo by Jonathan Lassen on Pexels.com

This week, 18 years later, social media is abuzz with the collectively remembered anniversary of the sudden, dramatic, deliberate slaughter that invaded our shores. Not like an army but like a bug, creeping into our safe place and then striking us with horror.

We don’t grieve like this a lot. Publicly. Visually. But in the 1800s, grief was out in the open. This month, in the Victorian Village Historic District of Memphis, the Mallory-Neely House is decked out in mourning clothes and educating people about the way we used to grieve.

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4 Ways to Take the Stinger Out of Grief Triggers

I grabbed an ear of fresh corn. Hovering over an open garbage can, I began to peel the husks off to reveal the sweet yellow gold inside.

At that moment, my mind flashed to the image of my dad standing beside a little-girl me as we shucked ears of corn in the kitchen of my childhood home.CornatBarton

The pain of having lost my dad to a heart attack wasn’t on my radar that hour until the ambush. That’s what a grief trigger is. An ambush. We do not expect that dagger to come at us from the bushes. Defenseless, we collapse. Especially if the loss is new.

Innocently at a grocery store one afternoon years ago, I spotted a can of Campbell’s bean with bacon soup, one of the few foods Mom would eat in her last days. I felt like I’d been punched. I carried my sadness through the store and into the parking lot that day.

My loss was fresh then. Now it’s been more than a decade since my parents died. I feel the loss, but it’s easier to embrace happy memories triggered by something I hear or see, and I’m in the habit of processing any new pieces of grief that pop up.

After years of slow but progressive work on grieving my parents, I see four ways that helped me move to a happier place, giving me the ability to accept grief as a part of life rather than as an interruption that jumps out at me from the bushes.

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