There’s a lot in the news at the moment about the approaching tenth anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001.  I was fortunate in that no one I knew personally was affected.  For many people, this is an anniversary of immense personal grief as well as a public occasion for remembrance.

Like most people, I can still remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the dreadful news.  The same is true of our personal experiences of loss, trauma, and other significant life-events.  We continually replay in our own minds the details of what happened, what we did or said or thought, what other people did, how the event unfolded.  We wonder how it might have been different, how sometimes an apparently trivial detail or chance event made all the difference to the outcome.  We might blame ourselves or other people for some part in it, feeling angry or guilty, but maybe most of all what we experience is our utter helplessness in the face of life events outside our control.

We all experience turning points in our lives where we feel that nothing can ever be quite the same again.  Often those occasions are associated with tragedy and grief.

At these times, and afterwards, especially around critical anniversaries, we need to tell the story of what happened and how it has affected us.  Sometimes this is to make it feel real to us when we still can’t quite believe what has happened; at other times, we need to share our feelings, to ease the pain.   Telling and re-telling our stories is a way of coming to terms with our experiences, of trying to make sense of what might feel senseless or without meaning.   

Psychotherapy and counselling offer a special space where stories of hurt and loss can be told, heard, told again, understood, and gradually integrated into our lives. Somehow, most people do find the inner strength and resourcefulness to rebuild their lives after tragedy and loss.  We find a way of telling and understanding our stories that supports and encourages us in carrying on with the difficult, complicated, and uncertain business of living.  We learn how to honour the tragedies we experience in our lives without being immobilised by them, to acknowledge the anniversaries of past traumas whilst still holding onto our hopes and committing our energies to the creation of a future for ourselves.  Life might never be the same again, but it can still be worthwhile, enriching and creative.