The Vocabulary of Grief

Twenty years after 9/11, we still don’t know how to talk about death

Abigail Carter

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The author and her daughter at the birdbath party, 2003 (photo: Abigail Carter)

Twenty years is a long time to grieve. In those early years after the buildings collapsed on 9/11 taking my husband, Caleb Arron Dack, along with 2,995 others, I couldn’t imagine what my life without him might look like in twenty years. It seemed an unfathomable amount of time. I had to get down to the business at hand —raise two small children while mourning Arron in a way that I felt “honored him.” Those were the words that kept creeping into my brain: you must find a way to properly honor him.

The problem was, as a 35-year-old new widow with a two, and six-year-old, I barely had a vocabulary for “honoring” or “mourning” or even “grieving” him, let alone a methodology. I was surprised to learn I was meant to “celebrate” his life. I was not in a very celebratory mood. And so I did what all good 9/11 widows did — I attended public memorials. The city of New York, the state of New Jersey, the town of Montclair. I sat through countless tear-jerky renditions of Amazing Grace on the bagpipes and the ringing of too many fire bells. The firefighters had the mourning thing down, and I derived unexpected comfort from the consistency of those bagpipes and bells.

The first anniversary

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Abigail Carter

Writing about widowhood, parenting, life, grief, art, writing and publishing. #singlemom #author #memoirist #writer #widow #9/11widow #artist