The 20th Anniversary of 9/11: Coping with Trauma & Complex Emotional Response
It’s hard to imagine, but 9/11 was 20 years ago. This year, it seems like everyone is making documentaries and podcasts talking about this moment in American history. These documentarians and podcasters keep saying things like, “now that we have distance from the events of 9/11, we can begin to process the experience as a nation.” For many of us, it feels like 9/11 just happened, and the anniversary is bringing it all back. The events of 9/11 impacted us as a nation, but it’s important to remember that, for many people, that impact was a little closer to home. If you’re struggling with experiences related to 9/11 and all of the emotions and thoughts that are coming up with the looming anniversary, you don’t have to go through this alone. In this blog, we offer some tips for coping with the effects of trauma related to 9/11 or any other traumatic event, and you are always welcome to schedule a therapy session with one of the knowledgeable professionals at Lotus Psychology Group.
It’s Been 20 Years – Shouldn’t I Be Okay?
It’s okay to not be okay as long as you need – even if it’s been 20 years. 9/11 was an extremely difficult time for many people in the U.S. We didn’t know what to expect. Would this be the opening salvos in a war on American soil? Were we going to lose even more people? Were any of us safe? For those people who had personal losses associated with 9/11 or who witnessed the events firsthand, this trauma was deeper and more personal. For many, it was difficult to process the trauma related to 9/11 because so many other people had worse stories. People convinced themselves they didn’t deserve to be upset because their 9/11 experience wasn’t traumatic enough. We want to remind you that there’s no such thing as traumatic enough. If you’ve spent the last 20 years feeling overwhelmed by your trauma response to 9/11, what better way to honor this anniversary than finally taking the step to work with a professional to get through this and start healing.
If you’ve worked hard to develop effective coping strategies to deal with 9/11, big anniversaries like this one can bring a lot of confronting emotions and thoughts flooding back in. Many people who thought they were finally okay after the events of 9/11 may begin to feel overwhelmed again. It’s okay to take some time to sit down with a therapist and talk through what you’re experiencing and refresh your coping skills.
Some Simple Tips for Coping with Confronting Emotions & Thoughts
Whatever your experience related to 9/11, if you’re having a tough time right now, your experience is valid. Below, we’ve included some simple first steps for managing the big emotions and difficult thoughts attached to 9/11:
· Accept don’t suppress – when you feel upset (angry, sad, frustrated, anxious, etc.), allow yourself to fully feel that emotion. Accept it. Your mind and body are sending you signals. Take a few minutes to listen to yourself. How does the emotions make you feel, what thoughts come up, what triggered this thinking and feeling? Then, take a few deep breaths and continue with your day.
· Talk to others – there are numerous support groups for grief and specific groups related to 9/11 that are starting back up to offer a safe space for people to talk about how the 20th anniversary is impacting them. You can also talk to friends and family members who share or understand your experience. Therapy is also a good option.
· Take a break – if you notice that the anniversary is impacting you, try to take some time off from work and other obligations. It may not be possible, but if it is, a break can be really beneficial in order to allow yourself the time to process what you’re feeling without worrying about other commitments.
· Breathe – you can find numerous deep breathing exercises online, and as long as the exercise works for you, it’s working. One of the simplest ones is the 5-7-9 technique. You simply inhale and count to 5. Hold your breath as you count to 7, and exhale as you count to 9. Repeat this pattern at least 5 times.
· Scream it out – sometimes, a good scream can make all the difference. Our emotions get so bottled up as we look for healthy and acceptable ways to express them, but sometimes, we just need to get them out. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by colliding thoughts and emotions, scream. You don’t need to scream words or do anything particular. Just go somewhere you’re not likely to scare anyone or get the police called and let it out.
Do You Need to Talk About It?
If you need to talk about your experiences with 9/11 or other traumatic events, the Lotus Psychology Group is here for you. Our knowledgeable therapists have years of experience walking alongside people who are managing and healing from the effects of trauma. Getting started is easy. You can call, email, or complete our simple online form. We look forward to hearing from you.