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Sharing grief helps ease the pain

Reaching out reassures us we are not alone in our pain and sadness after the tragedies in New York and Washington, experts say.  

By Elizabeth Cohen

NEW YORK (CNN) -- From the streets of New York to synagogues and churches across America, we've seen people crying, hugging, sharing their grief.

Even those who don't live in New York or Washington, even those who don't know anybody personally affected by the tragedies of last week, are feeling stress and anxiety.

"These people are reaching out to other humans, trying to connect, and that is probably the biggest signal that you are coping," says Les Gallo-Silver, a social worker who has been counseling people all week.

But when do normal emotions turn into something more worrisome?

One sign that perhaps you're not coping is that you can't talk about your stress, that you can't join in sadness with others, Gallo-Silver says. "Your inability to want to be part of those things and closing yourself off, that's an indication maybe you need extra help," he says.

Psychiatrist Richard Rosenthal says stress following a tragedy -- being snippy with a spouse, or unproductive at work -- is normal in the short term.

Psychiatrist Richard Rosenthal recommends seeing a counselor or doctor if you suffer from persistent stress.  

"If this persists more than three or four weeks and it's causing significant dysfunction in a workplace or in relationships, then it really should be brought to clinical attention," Rosenthal says.

To prevent sadness from developing into long-term depression, or even violence, try to get back into your old routine. "Putting one foot in front of the other -- even if you're just sort of play acting -- you may not really like it. Lots of us feel that way right now," Rosenthal says.

Another suggestion: volunteer, which could leave you feeling less helpless.

Cry, too, if you feel like it, and realize you're not alone.

• Experts: Trauma, fear natural reactions
September 14, 2001
• In the aftermath, going on with work
September 12, 2001
• Talk about it, counselors advise
September 11, 2001

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