Grief, Terror, Rage and Love: The Aftermath of September 11th

Grief, Terror, Rage and Love: The Aftermath of September 11th

By S. Dylan Breuer sdbreuer@ucla.edu

I'd like to share some thoughts and feelings with you.

On Tuesday, and in the days following, I've been afraid as I've never feared before -- not in earthquakes or riots, not as the victim of violent crime, not when a small plane I was in lost power. Hearing of the incidents in New York, and D.C. was terrifying. I thought of friends and family members who work near the World Trade Center and in the Pentagon. My partner works at a college which is a few miles from Camp David, rumored to be a target. Frederick, Maryland, where we live, is home to a biological weapons laboratory housing strains of deadly viruses and bacteria; that facility was also rumored to be a target. But I think what scared me most was -- and is -- that I fear communities across America will allow themselves to be torn apart by terror, accomplishing terror's work in a way and on a scale no army could.

These incidents are deeply terrifying. It's terrifying to think that in America, on a sunny day, in the midst of our daily routines, a few people could take our lives, our loved ones, and even the basic sense that we live in a world that makes sense, that is ordered, somewhat predictable, and, for the most part, safe. But nothing -- neither height nor depth, and neither grief nor anger of any intensity -- can separate us from the love of God which we experience in loving community. We separate ourselves from that love when we despise the Spirit which binds us together.

It is more than OK to be afraid, or even to be enraged. It is inevitable to feel these things when we have been so deeply and so painfully wounded, when we have lost so much we cared for. And it is possible to be aware of feeling fear, grief, and rage without abandoning the care we are called to have for each other. Indeed, for all of us who feel these things -- including me -- what I'd like to say is something I've learned from what terror and loss I've experienced: I can't make those feelings or that pain go away by denying that I'm feeling them. I can't make them go away by telling myself I shouldn't feel that way, or by trying to shout the feelings down or distract myself. And I can't make them go away by punishing the person or people I hold responsible. Nothing else that can happen will erase the horror of what already happened, just as nothing that happened can erase the loving relationships I've had with friends who have died.

Our instinct when feeling things that are deeply painful and terrifying is to flee from those feelings -- to deny, project, or act as quickly as possible to make ourselves unaware of having them. But the cost of running is too high. God is with us in the present and in who we are; we lose awareness of that when we try not to experience the present and whatever we're feeling in it. God is with us in communities bound together by self-giving love, and we shut ourselves off from that to the extent that we speak and act to hurt our brothers and sisters and undermine God's work in bringing us together.

There is an alternative. If we can allow ourselves to experience what we feel instead of running from it, we can come together in authentic community. Others who join us seeking meaning in the midst of grief, terror, and rage can feel welcomed and loved for who they are, not pressured to deny their feelings and their experience lest they remind us of our own. We can love each other for who we are, even without understanding each other. We can live fully -- abundantly, if not painlessly.

Please, God, overwhelm us with the grace to become instruments of your peace, which surpasses understanding in a manner far deeper than the events of Tuesday escape our understanding. Teach us to love each other as you love us. Teach us to embrace abundant life even as we experience loss, and let our shared humanity, Your image in us, bind us together.

Dylan


------------------------------------

Please sign my guestbook and view it.


My site has been accessed times since February 14, 1996.

Statistics courtesy of WebCounter.