Like many people around the world, I've been thinking a lot today about the death of Osama bin Laden. The family members of 9/11 victims have also been on my mind, so I contacted Stanford psychiatrist David Spiegel, MD, to discuss the significance of the event from a mental-health perspective. I asked Spiegel, who has done research on the psychological impact of 9/11 and other traumatic events, what he thought of the development and whether it might bring much-needed closure to survivors. Here's what he told me:
I don't think 'closure' is the right term. One woman who lost her husband in the Oklahoma City bombing said, "The only 'closure' I'm going to get is when they close the lid on my coffin." What I have heard from family members of victims from the 9/11 attack is that while there is a sense of justice finally being done, the absence of their loved ones is ever painful. "It is not closure, but it is justice. Not happiness but relief."
It always helps in dealing with stress to do something - to be in an active role. I think a certain kind of anxiety is reduced by the message that no matter how long it takes (and it took far too long), those who inflict grievous harm on us will pay a price.