We all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing as the horrific events of 9/11 began to unfold. Ten years later, these memories are as fresh and vivid as the day they occurred. I was attending a corporate business meeting in Sgt Bluff, Iowa on that unforgettable day. I often traveled for my job, but this trip would be a very different one- one that ripped me from my husband and 6-month old baby at the worst possible time. I found myself half way across the country from my home – stranded, scared for my country and alone.
It was my great fortune to partner with a beloved co-worker for the long journey home. Flying was no option, so we quickly got permission to keep my rental car and began a “Thelma & Louise” style trip- minus the cliff diving of course. We bought a disposable camera and a map and set off on a two and half day trek from the middle of the country to the coast of the Mid-Atlantic.
Thinking back on all of this, it strikes me that 9/11 began a time of incredible grief in our nation. And just like any other kind of grief, we have been going through the healing process ever since. Today marks the 10-year anniversary of this tragedy and a milestone in our healing- a decade of handling our grief.
For those of us dealing with the loss of miscarriage, we have faced this type of grief. The deep, intense wonder if things will ever right themselves, if we will find the happiness we seek. Ten years after 9/11 our nation has moved on, but we are forever changed. We may not feel the daily sting of the events, but we will always remember the pain.
Miscarriage and loss is no different. Although we move on with our lives, we are forever changed. However, I hope like our nation, you may each find the hope and peace you are looking for.
Men and women often find themselves feeling alone during grief because nature (and society) has equipped us to handle it so differently. These differences can make it harder to connect during the times we need it most, so we must work to understand one another.
When facing loss, men generally put their feelings into action. They often experience their pain physically rather than emotionally. A man may tend to focus on goal-oriented tasks that require thinking and action. For this reason, he may put his efforts into planting a memorial garden or writing a eulogy.
In other cultures, men have been noted as using rituals to relieve the pain of anger or grief. Physical ceremonies such as shooting bows and arrows have been observed as outlets for grief and sorrow.
Activity can give men a sense of control and accomplishment as they experience grief. Even if he decides to share details of his loss with friends, it may likely be during shared activities such as fishing or sporting events.
Men will often react to the stress of grief by exhibiting behavior that scientist refer to as “fight-or-flight.” This type of reaction means that individuals who are confronted with stress will either react aggressively (“fight”), or withdraw or flee from the situation (“flight”).
A man will often allow himself to cry during grief, but he will usually do so alone, or even in the dark. This may lead other family members to believe that he is not grieving at all.
In general, our society teaches women that it is acceptable for them to be open with their feelings. They will often feel a greater need to talk with others and share their emotions with supportive friends and family members.
In many cases, women seek non-judgmental listeners who are comfortable with a show of emotion. This provides them with an outlet for the grief they are feeling.
Women often respond to the stress of grief with a reaction called “tend-and-befriend.” This means that they may feel compelled to protect or nurture their children or others (“tend”) and seek out social contact and support from others (“befriend”). For this reason, women may have the desire to join a support group, while men, on the other hand, generally do not.
Even with our society’s ability to accept strong emotions and feelings from women, it is typical for our culture to criticize them as they deal with grief. All too often, women are said to be too sentimental or even ‘weak’ when they are seen expressing the painful emotions of grief. This causes some women to feel the need to suppress their feelings, or believe that they are failing to be ‘strong.’ However, it is often found that women are experiencing the grief- feeling the pain, while others around may be avoiding grief work.
The above information was adapted from the book Hope is Like the Sun: Finding Hope and Healing After Miscarriage, Stillbirth, or Infant Death.