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Acknowledging Trauma Anniversaries

This month marks the 17th anniversary of one of the most traumatic events in American history. For those who were directly impacted by the Twin Towers terrorist attacks, every September 11th can bring a multitude of painful emotions. And often times, the anticipation of such a date can be just as difficult. The website Bustle made a point to acknowledge that this week, with helpful tips on how to prepare for a trauma anniversary.

Mountainside Treatment Center clinician Devon Hawes was interviewed for the article and shared some of the general reasons why calendar dates can create so much stress.


“A trauma anniversary, or anniversary reaction, is the recurrence of emotional and or physical distress experienced around the time of a past traumatic event or experience,” he explained on the site. “It can reactivate thoughts and feelings from the actual traumatic event.”

Issues that tend to come up during an anniversary for something like 9/11 can include flashbacks, PTSD shakes, disrupted sleep, intrusive thoughts, anger, loss of appetite and severe depression (just to name a few). So what can be done to prevent these feelings from occurring year after year after year?

Brooks McKenzie, another wellness specialist interviewed for the piece, listed some easy exercises.

“Having a schedule and a discipline on these anniversaries helps us to better manage our emotional and spiritual states,” she emphasized. “It is important to honor the process of healing and mindfulness on an anniversary. Utilizing dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills, breathing techniques, and repeating empowering affirmations can make an anniversary feel a little more manageable.”

Other recommendations include taking the allotted anniversary date off from work or school. If the traumatic event was a shared experience among others who you know, reaching out and discussing it openly can help create a healing effect. If it was deeply personal (perhaps a violent crime or a painful accident), it is recommended to reach out to friends or family members who can “watch out for you” and keep you safe during a vulnerable time.

For many, the passage of time can help ease the pain of a traumatic event. As more years go by, hopefully the deep emotional scars will continue to heal. But if pain is still looming and an upsetting anniversary is approaching this season, don’t be afraid to reach out for professional support. We have trained therapists and counselors standing by.