Monday, May 2, 2011

The Five Stages of Post-OBL Grief

Photo credit: Emily Berl for The New York Times
For once, I'm doing a serious blog, sorry for those of you expecting a laugh or a poop joke -- you're bound to be disappointed; but maybe you'll keep reading anyway.

They say that when you grieve, you go through 5 emotional stages. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. I didn't expect that I would feel them about, of all people, Bin Laden.


While I slept half way across the world in Paris, something amazing happened: US forces found and killed Bin Laden.

My first reaction to this was disbelief. It's been such a long battle. So many lives have been lost in the search for this... beast. I couldn't fathom that after nearly 10 years, the puppet of hate had been silenced. It just felt unreal. It had to be a hoax, someone must be behind this, still pulling the strings.

But the more I read and watched this morning
it slowly sunk in.


While I obviously felt many other things, namely relief, anger started to emerge as the dominant emotion. I saw Americans celebrating, showing their asses on TV, screaming at the camera with wide smiles and tongues hanging out like lap dogs, and generally... well, sounding ignorant.

I'm pretty pissed off about the media coverage in France. I didn't expect a nation-wide party, and I'm sure that's not what's really happening. Not in the majority at least. Of course, there are some who are going to get drunk, and wave a flag, and celebrate like it's the fourth of July... but I didn't feel that way at all.

My thoughts were so far from that it's ridiculous. I was thinking of the families who lost loved ones and friends in the towers and in the wars. I thought of all the sacrifice and pain and humiliation the US has suffered.

I'd like to think I'm not the only one. Surely, people who have lived through that loss, were having a moment of silent reflection?

But I guess that doesn't make for very good television because all I saw from Paris was a bunch of hootin' and hollerin'. At least no one showed their boobs.

Tonight while watching the news
I found myself thinking... "Please, please someone, anyone, show a vigil, show some people who are not acting like they're at a frat party. Don't let this be the only image of Americans that the world has to evaluate our culture..." Alas, my pleas fell on deaf TV executive's ears.

Merci Paris, t'as capturé la drame, mais pas la bonne.

Then I just felt plain old sad. Sad that this is how people see my culture, this is what will remain in the archives of the reaction to the single most significant military action in my life time. A bunch of kids, partying in the street like they'd just won the $25M bounty on his head.

Sad that due respect wasn't paid to the people who deserved justice the most.

I'm starting to come to terms with it. Beginning to accept that what I at first perceived as an inappropriate celebration, others may see as a sign of hope.

I watched the president's speech. Watched it again. And felt a few small ripples of happiness myself, though it was accompanied by a smidge of guilt. Obama's speech was solemn, yes, but it was also hopeful. I think I even glimpsed a bit of a smile at times that he was probably trying hard to suppress.

Maybe it's good for America to find its smile, good for Americans to make peace with the situation and to let out their collective steam.

Still, I wish the sober, thoughtful, respectful side of of Americans had had equal portrayal on this side of the world.
The print media was much more dignified, and the coverage of ground zero that I saw online made me feel a lot better.

I think it's still sinking in for me, and maybe when it does fully, I'll raise a glass too... but not to Bin Laden's death. He doesn't deserve my attention.

I'll raise my glass to the soldiers. To the lost ones. To their families. To the persistence and courage and love of democracy that my country fights to uphold. But not to the execution itself. To that, I'll dedicate an exhale.

How did you feel?


  1. Love this post, Shan. It's unfortunate that the media has to portray Bin Laden's death as a party, but I feel like there are enough people over here that are truly taking the time to reflect on what his death means.
    I went through some similar stages myself, like anger at people's ignorant facebook posts, criticizing Obama for giving Islamic last rights to Bin Laden's body. Mostly I feel sadness that his death is really only symbolic. It doesn't change the situation that American soldiers are in. It doesn't change the politics in America. But then you do have to be hopeful. It makes you feel good that people who have lost loved ones because of Bin Laden's doing are feeling comfort and closure on their pain. Thanks for letting me share my 2 cents!

  2. Thanks El,

    Actually on the news here they're saying Isalmic custom is to perform burials in the ground -- not at sea; it's all very strange.

    Although, I do agree with the logic of not creating some kind of terrorist mecca on land. That does no good at all.

    Thanks for sharing :)

    xx S

  3. Great post, Shannon. I, too, am saddened by the party atmosphere surrounding the news here in America. I am feeling like how I would imagine someone watching the execution of the person who murdered their loved one would feel. Relief more than celebration. By no means do I think this means The War is over, because he was a crazy figurehead of a group of crazy radicals who I'm sure will only be made more crazy by his death. However, I do think it proved a point to the enemies of freedom that We Will Never Forget. My friend Sara's family will never forget. She was a flight attendant on the plane that crashed into the north tower. My husband will never forget because he was a couple of blocks south of ground zero and saw the whole thing. He had to walk north to safety through the ash that was falling through the air. I will never forget his voice when he called - finally - to tell me that he was safe and that he was covered in the ash of not just debris but possibly human remains. After months of nightmares every night, we were reminded again when the hotel he was staying at (just a block away from Ground Zero at the Marriott Financial Center) sent his bag to us almost a year later, and told us it was hazardous and we shouldn't open it. That's 10 people right there who will never forget, and there are thousands more with similar stories. If We Will Never Forget, then neither should our enemies forget that the USA will not only defend herself, but also protect freedom wherever it needs protecting. Always.
    ::WHEW:: Didn't know I had all that in me! Leave it to you to get me all stirred up! ;) I think I need to go blog it out on my site now...
    Oh, and, thanks.

  4. I'm glad to finally see in blog-form what has been bothering me all day, and expressed so eloquently. Merci.

  5. @melo: My heart goes out to everyone you mentioned, and to you too of course. That's the perfect example of people I was thinking about. Let's all exhale :)

    @Reb: thanks for reading, glad I'm not alone.

  6. good comments Shannon. i've been pretty depressed about the apparent celebration atmosphere - and you're post reminded me of something that I should have realized: the media potrayol is about drama/excitement/catchy stories. So, I now have hope that there are people who didn't use this as excuse to go on a mardi-gras like bender, but acted in a mature, sincere, respectful and hopeful manner.

  7. Such a thought-provoking post Shannon.

    As I awoke to the news of Bin Laden's death, I was shocked and in complete disbelief. I pretty much thought it was one of those hoaxes or that the government had declared him dead after a period of time. When I read Obama's statement, it started to sink in with a mixture of emotions, and trying to understand how Americans and particularly the families of those who perished on 9/11 must be feeling.

    As I read the tweets coming from Americans, I felt shame for America. I figured it was just the youngsters, those too young to understand the shock, horror, pain and pure disbelief of why the hunt of Osama Bin Laden commenced. Surely, those were the people who would celebrate with a jubilant nature. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I watched the news for about 30 minutes with people - Firefighters, police, civilians - of all ages laughing, waving flags and acting as though they had all won the lottery. I had to switch off. I felt so angry. I recall the afternoon of 9/11 when the British (and I presume the American) media showed reports from Afghanistan and across the Middle East: people were burning the American flag and dancing following the attacks which changed our world and stole so much life. How could people behave in such a barbaric manner? Yesterday, I felt the same way about those ignorant revellers. The worst part is that I believe that many people are going through similar grief steps you mentioned and these actions are a complete disrespect to them.

  8. @forest at this point, I'm just telling myself that there's probably 10 people sitting silently in thought for every one acting the fool. Too bad it's not as electrifying on the screen.

    @Mila: I too felt some shame, but I think a part of it is also provocative. Le sigh. Media.

  9. Shannon, thanks for your insights. It is so interesting that I watched the revelers on TV and thought, "Why don't I feel like that?" It took several days to process the whole thing, and I know I'm still thinking about it. Today on Good Morning America there was a segment on different people involved. I was grateful for their input and feelings. One was a Navy Seal that went in, another whole segment was on the children who were born to victims of 9/11 post 9/11. There were home videos of the children and their thoughts as well as parents. There was sadness, joy, hope and moving on shown throughout. In talking with friends, many felt the same need you talked about with grieving and quiet thought. My guess there were 100 quiet thinkers to 1 reveler here, but that doesn't make for a very exciting news story.

    This quote came through on facebook and I wanted to share it. "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." Originally it was said it was a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but I guess that isn't true. Whoever said it, I think there is much wisdom there. Wow, I feel like another writer above, I didn't realize I had so much to say.

  10. " . . . My personal opinion is that if they actually did celebrate, it helps them to bring closure to the hate they had kept inside them and to move on to better things." Sohaib Athar, Live-Tweeter of Bin Laden Raid, Answers Your Questions on Huffington Post.

  11. What a thoughtful post, Shannon.

    I felt conflicted about the whole thing... In fact, I was one of the ones that shared the FB message that Heather mentions up there (which I later read had some errors in it, too -- not all of it was from MLK Jr., only part of it was. I still like what it says, though!). I endorsed the sentiments of the quote/mis-quote entirely. It made me feel a little sad and weird that people were acting as you put it: the hootin' and hollerin' partying crowd.

    But, to each his own. Like you also wrote, if it gave closure to some to act in that manner, so be it. I think, like you, I was more inclined to be thoughtful of those who gave up their lives in the past 10 years.

  12. You have summed up my exact thoughts so eloquently. I had such a mix of emotions. I wanted to be happy, but at the same time, I knew I couldn't bring myself to "celebrate". It was more a sense of relief. Watching all the nut jobs screaming in the streets, I couldn't help but remember the tv footage of extremists after the 9/11 attacks cheering and hollering in their streets. How are we any different? I wish more had been shown of the Americans in reflection; a battle won, but not the war. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  13. This was clearly media manipulation.
    Most decent Americans were horrified at the jubilation and party atmosphere in the street.
    These knuckle heads were between 8 and 11 years old when 9/11 happened.
    When interviewed, they were asked who UBL was and what it was that he did. They didn't have a clue.
    The disgusting main stream media is always looking for any excuse to paint the U. S. in the worst possible light so that the world will believe that we are nothing more than uncouth Neanderthals.


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