20 years on from 9/11…How long should grief last?


Photo by Max Sulik on Unsplash

Twenty years on from 9/11, many many Americans are still grieving those lost.

How long does grief last? How long should it last?

There is no prescribed timeline, of course. Journalist April Reese recently wrote in Aeon that the usual western notion embraces five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance — which were first laid out by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a psychiatrist in her 1969 book ‘On Death and Dying’.

But, said Ms Reese, psychologists and neurobiologists now “realise that grief is far more complex and individualistic”. And she quoted a 2019 study by Dutch and American researchers, which found that the grieving process was especially complicated for people who lost loved ones to violence.

This reminded me of the commentary recently offered by Jennifer Senior, a staff writer on The Atlantic magazine, on the nature of grief. Having finished a piece on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, she said she had learned “that some people really need it (grief). That they need to feel pain. That getting better is not really something they’re interested in doing. When we tell people to ‘move on’ and ‘get past things’, it may be a kind of tyranny”.