On Building a Life – Alongside.

by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on September 10, 2014

It is thirteen years after.

Almost to the day.

I do not know when you will be reading this post, but I am writing it on the eve of.

The eve of the event that changed everything for many of us.

Strange to look out my window and see the beams of light knowing what they represent, on the eve of.

September 11 is almost here and I feel compelled to write, as I do on the eve of every September 11, since I began my blog.

It is my own, personal meditation.

And on this evening, I share it with you.

As I look out on the city lights, the shiny new Freedom Tower, and the outstretched beams of white light reaching toward the inky blue sky, I am struck by our ability to rebuild and go on while remaining connected to our grief and the memory of that day. Of course, as a psychoanalyst, this is something I know and believe in – the resilience of the human spirit and our ability to survive, and to continue to be, to continue to live our life. Yet, I am always moved when I experience it.

The events of September 11th 2001 changed everything for me, and for many among us. They made survivors of a generation of New Yorkers and Americans, (and also of many in other parts of the world) who had grown up believing that the world was safe, or at least, sort of safe. On that day, our notion of safety, predictability and comfort was forever changed. Many things changed on that day.

This post is about life post trauma, and the possibility of living fully while grieving what will never again be.

Is that even possible? To continue to live when everything in you has exploded, changed, re -morphed into an attempt to understand, to put pieces back together, to …what?

Continue with life?


It is possible to re-build a life alongside ones’ pain.

It is.

Slowly at first

One foot in front of the other

And then a rest

Perhaps a sit down

Or even a lie down…

Then, later

and maybe only sometimes,

With words and with people

With loved ones and

With loved things

with objects that help us remember

and also forget

With work

that helps us remember a part of ourselves

and also forget

With music

and books

and movies

With nature

and walks

and dance

and art

and tears

With love

and friendship

With community

and sharing

and people

and people

and people

We are always in need of people

and relationships

and many,

many ways of putting language and words to what we feel and what we experience.

This is how

we build a life – alongside.

Sometimes I am able to  help others begin to do this.  My patients, my friends, my family. Sometimes they are able to help me. At such times I feel honored and blessed, renewed in what I have always believed and known – that we can rebuild our lives alongside.

For me, September 11th has become a reminder of the importance of knowing that it is possible to build a life alongside.

As is often the case, I think that poets capture much of our lived experience best, as artists usually do because of their ability to go beyond words and disrupt meaning, stretching words to include what one has lived. Here is an excerpt from Mark Doty’s Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir, which captures the possibility of living alongside.

“Sorrow feels right, for now. Sorrow seems large and inhabitable, an interior season whose vaulted sky’s a suitable match for the gray and white tumult arched over these headlands. A sorrow is not to be gotten over or moved through in quite the way that sadness is, yet sorrow is also not as frozen and monochromatic as mourning. Sadness exists inside my sorrow, but it’s not as large as sorrow’s realm. This sorrow is capacious; there’s room inside it for the everyday, for going about the workaday stuff of life. And for loveliness, for whatever we’re to be given by the daily walk.” 

I don’t know anything different about death than I ever have, but I feel differently. I inhabit this difference in feeling- or does it live in me?- at the same time as I’m sorrowing. The possibility of consolation, of joy even, does not dispel the sorrow. Sorrow is the cathedral, the immense architecture; in its interior there’s room for almost everything; for desire, for flashes of happiness, for making plans for the future…


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna September 23, 2014 at 1:47 PM

So true, and so precious this painful knowledge is.
I agree with the poet saying that if we can really take in the sorrow as part of our experience in life we can also find or re-conquer the possibility of joy and many other things we felt lost forever.
To me the basic receipt is always, as you remaind, people, people, people (even if to someone sometime this can be the hardest part).
Thanks for writing this, I appreciated it.


Jack Wiener, LP, CMT September 11, 2014 at 9:43 AM

Welcome back. It is a very touching piece. At moments bringing tears. People, people, people made me sense the loneliness that dance can express so eloquently.


David Wood September 11, 2014 at 7:49 AM



Spyros D Orfanos September 11, 2014 at 7:17 AM

Yes indeed. Building a life alongside. Here’s to a long life for all the survivors alongside.


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