It is a myth that time heals all wounds. Any anniversary of a loved one’s death becomes a crowbar that reopens those wounds.
What is more accurate to say is that the loss of someone you love creates a permanent hole in your heart. But you can fortify yourself by focusing on what you still have, what is possible for you, and ways you can integrate the positive memory of a loved one in your life. Most people suffer these milestones in silence, with few of their friends or colleagues knowing the significance of the date on the calendar.
The people who were robbed of their loved ones on September 11th do at least have one advantage. We all know that today is a difficult day for them.
Today Ali Millard will think about her stepfather, Neil Levin, who perished that day. He was married to her mother, Christy Ferer Levin, who is now Mayor Bloomberg’s liaison in maintaining contact with 9/11 families.
Never doubt the power of a stepparent. Ali Millard, now 22, loved him deeply. Love is a habit that often forms in the unlikeliest places, over scrambled eggs at breakfast, over a clambake, over talking about a book that impacted both of you, or a film that made you both laugh.
Stepparents, when they are kind and supportive, can root themselves deep in the hearts of their stepchildren. A few years ago, Ali created “Art for Heart,” where each child who lost a parent in 9/11 created a one foot square panel about their loved one. Millard then assembled these panels into a huge collage that is displayed at galleries and museums around the world. The panels ranged from fire trucks to flags to rainbows of hope.
There are other children today thinking of a parent who perished that awful day. Maybe their parents remarried. Hopefully, their families are planning a special ritual to honor today.
But it doesn’t have to be a candle-lighting ceremony. Sharing in a hobby the deceased parent loved, cooking their favorite meal, or simply talking about the loss can do. A parent may remarry, but a child has only one mother and one father. Stepparents should not be threatened by any honoring of that bond.
Healing is a process as we know. You have your good days and your bad days.
Whether the pain is from death or from divorce, one should never be ashamed of feeling grief. After all, grief just means you loved someone. But pain also opens doors to learning, appreciation, and possibility. It should be acknowledged for what it is, and what it always will be – especially on the anniversary.