Impact of 9/11 lingers
Seven years ago today almost 3000 people died in brutal terrorist attacks. For those of us not directly affected, the passage of time brings a natural fading of the horror and shock we felt; 9/11 is receding into history. There is nothing wrong with this -- such is the inevitable progression of our reaction to any tragedy. We remember those who died, we try to learn what lessons we can to prevent such an event from recurring, and then we go on with our lives.
For some, however, the impact of 9/11 lingers. One of the lessons we can learn from 9/11 is the importance of recognizing and treating bereavement in children who have suffered the death of a parent:
The rate of psychiatric illness among children who lost a parent in the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack doubled – from about 32 to nearly 73 percent – in the years following the event, according to a new study from researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
[...] "We saw elevated cortisol levels in many bereaved children throughout the two-year study. That suggests that the HPA axis remained switched on at a relatively high level." That could lead to problems down the line, Dr. Pfeffer says, because studies have shown that chronic HPA activation in childhood may make individuals hypersensitive to stressors throughout their lifespan. Chronically elevated cortisol levels can also negatively impact bone health and boost risks for insulin-related dysfunction. The study does suggest that many bereaved children, whatever the nature of their loss, need better monitoring and treatment.
Processing such an abrupt loss can take many years , even with assistance:
According to the charity Tuesday's Children , which has provided support to 5,000 family members since its inception in 2001, some children are only just beginning to open up about losing their parents. "This year, some kids were able to express things for the first time," says Terry Grace Sears, who is involved in running summer camps and mentoring programs for the 9/11 kids. "Particularly the young boys were grieving."
Sears says that some children were too young at the time of their loss to comprehend it, while others felt they needed to stay strong for the surviving parent and repressed their grief.
These children aren't just victims needing sympathy, I don't want to give that impression at all -- the article goes on to talk about how they participated in a workshop in which they developed a proclamation that was presented to Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, and to the United Nations in which they pledged to "aid in resolving global conflicts and make change for the generations to come." I can't even imagine trying to cope with what they (or anyone faced with a similar situation) have had to endure, and it's inspiring that they are seeking to build something positive from their experience.
9/11 itself will fade into history for most of us, but it is both respectful and prudent to gather what constructive knowledge we can from those events and apply it to our current world. One of the positive things that we as a nation should take from the aftermath of 9/11 is an improved capability to provide help to children who find themselves facing sudden tragedy. Even as we work to assist the children who lost a parent in the attacks, those children are helping us as a society. This isn't meant as a "silver lining" attempt to find redemptive value in their suffering, but rather as an acknowledgment of their resilience and strength under pressure, which we would do well to emulate.
Please consider this a thread for any thoughts about 9/11.