We all have them … That song, that scent, the cereal aisle, that color, that season, that holiday, that flower … that “anything at all” which immediately takes us back to a place of raw grief. The professionals like to call them triggers and tell us these experiences are just a normal part of the grieving process. But, you and I know, because they often come out-of-the-blue and at the most inopportune times, triggers or the anxiety surrounding them are a challenging aspect of managing our grief.
Early in our grief, we can’t seem to escape triggers. Many of us avoid certain places and activities closely associated with our loved ones because it can seem unbearable. In time, we come to understand that hiding away from the world we used to know simply to avoid triggers doesn’t always provide comfort either. Each of us in our own way end up facing the fact that our lives will always have triggers in them, and we can’t control when or how they come. Each of us learns to live with this truth and we devise our own coping mechanisms to navigate these experiences.
I was having coffee at Starbucks in Santa Monica, California a few years ago with John James, the founder of one of the biggest grief facilitating training methods in the world. It was a very interesting conversation as we discussed how we each found our way into the grief world. Neither he or I as young men, had any interest in having anything to do with grief work. Yet, there we sat, both of us as nationally recognized leaders and voices on the subject of loss.
As I picked John’s brain that day, the subject of triggers came up. His thoughts were some of the most astute I had ever heard. He said “a lot of people think we grieve more during the holiday season than at other times of the year, but the truth is we generally grieve equally throughout the year”. “The only difference for most grievers during holidays is the increased amount of triggers we encounter”. “Triggers are the jolt that remind us like a bucket of ice water being poured over our head that we miss those we love”.
There is no magical advice I can give on how to help manage or handle triggers. My only suggestion is to embrace the reality that they will be as much a part of your grief journey as breathing. Early in grief triggers can be incredibly painful … as we move through grief these triggers are a gentle reminder that the love is always there just below the surface. It took me a few years to appreciate my triggers, to consider them a gift. These days, when I see a brown-haired girl with a little streak of purple on her hair and I nearly lose my breath for a second …. I pause, look skyward and say “I miss you baby”.
I was asked the other night what my Ashley triggers are … my answer? “Life” is my Ashley trigger … Living life reminds me daily that she is not with me … and therefore, I must now live for the both of us. Blessings my friends❤️
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