Imagine what grief triggers can do:
You’re in your car, running errands. Your mind is going over the list of things you need to still do, focusing on the next stop. And suddenly that song starts playing on the radio. The song that you danced to the first night you met.
The flood of emotions hits you so hard, you have to pull over and stop the car. It feels like someone just punched you in the stomach. Sorrow, sadness, yearning – they all hold you in their grip, pulling you down into the despair of your loss.
You rush in from work, throwing the keys onto the counter. This day hasn’t been your best. Work was challenging and you’re frustrated with the new boss. In a split second, your eyes get caught on the beautiful glass figurine sitting on the shelf across the living room.
It stops you in your tracks. All worries about work melt away. You look at the rays of light sparkling in the intricate handicraft. Warm memories of your last vacation with your mom touch your heart. She had bought this trinket for you. It’s a bittersweet but beautiful reminder that life is more than work and worries.
What Are Grief Triggers?
People often don’t realize that the grieving process lasts longer than they think. But grief doesn’t follow a fixed schedule or program. Depending on the individual, your reactions to grief can take varying lengths of time. Along the way, most people experience moments that trigger grief, even if the loss was a long time ago.
Grief triggers are those consistent little reminders that keep throwing us back in time. A sight, a sound, a smell, a touch, a person, a place, or a special day can all trigger powerful memories. And out of nowhere, you’re ambushed without your consent.
It’s just how grief triggers are. They’re unpredictable, suddenly and unexpectedly catching you off guard. They are unrelenting and unavoidable. Just when you thought you conquered your grief, a trigger reminds you that you’re far from the finish line. It unleashes a flood of mixed feelings on you, putting you on an emotional roller-coaster.
But not all grief triggers will leave you reeling with pain or making you feel awful. Some can take you to a place of memories that touch your heart deeply. Those memories give you an opportunity to feel at peace and uplifted. They allow you to relish moments you experienced with your loved one. Moments that you can truly cherish.
What Causes Grief Triggers?
Humans are social creatures. Throughout our lives, we constantly form connections with each other. Connections that our mind stores and recognizes in the form of emotions. The sudden absence of a loved one doesn’t lessen your wish for that connection. If anything, it actually intensifies it. After all, there is a hole in your life now that you desperately want to fill.
By bringing back memories – so realistic that you can almost hear, see, touch, and smell them – grief triggers restore that connection you’re missing. You can’t bring back your loved one, but you can experience the emotions that are tied to them. Even if it’s just for the briefest of moment – happy or not – it is as if they’re right there beside you again.
In this way, grief triggers play a powerful role in the grieving process, helping you heal. They are more than agonizing reminders that your loved one is gone. They help you to fill that empty space for a time so that your mind can eventually readjust to a new reality.
Eventually,instead of avoiding them or feeling tortured by them, you might find yourself thankful for all the memories that keep you connected to that beloved person.
About the Author:
Barbara Fane, LCSW, BCD is a licensed psychotherapist with a private practice in Shrewsbury, Monmouth County NJ. She has been providing affirmative, compassionate and individualized help to Individuals, Couples and Families since 1990.