Anything that brings up memories of a loss you endured is a trigger. Triggers are inevitable—healing and learning from them is a choice.
Losing a loved one is an unimaginably painful wound that feels like it will never heal. It hurts so bad that you think you’ll feel the sting of their absence forever. The grief that follows the death of a loved one is painful enough; but just as you begin to move on and find hope again, triggers—or anything that brings up memories of the loss you endured—begin to occur, and it feels like you are reliving the experience and the pain all over again.
After Erica lost her son in a motorcycle accident, she was invited to the wedding of a girl who played a sport with her son. A considerable amount of time had passed since she grieved the loss of her son, but unsuspectingly, grief hit her like a tsunami when she spent the entire ceremony sobbing in the bathroom. A certain trigger hit her hard and fast: She would never see her son get married.
For many, triggers cause those still grappling with loss to sink a little lower into their grief, making healing even more unattainable. For others, they do the work involved with processing the pain, so while triggers become less frequent and less painful, they do still arise. Whatever the case, death is devastating and challenging for anyone who experiences it. But having the know-how when those unwitting triggers take over can be instrumental in digging yourself out of the pit of grief and finding happiness and healing.
Tips for Dealing with Triggers
- First, understand that triggers hurt, and triggers happen—no matter how far you are on your healing journey. Acknowledging that they may and will likely occur can help you be better prepared mentally and emotionally when the time comes.
- Find a safe place where you can process the trigger, preferably in real time. In Erica’s case, she went to the bathroom where she felt safe. Call a trusted family member or friend within your support system to talk you through it, or lean on the comfort of someone at your location if you feel safe and supported by them.
- If you are in a safe place at the onset of the trigger, be open to feeling your emotions and letting them flow. This is healthy grieving, and every time you allow your mind and body to “feel” the emotions, you are singlehandedly facilitating your own healing.
- Do not avoid, repress, or “push down” your triggers to avoid feeling them, or they will come back stronger and hit you like a ton of bricks when you least expect it.
- Remember that you can heal from the pain of losing your loved one—but you will miss them forever. Reframing the idea that all triggers or remembrances of your loved one are negative can be immensely helpful.
- Lean on the support of a grief recovery counselor who can walk you through your grief at your own pace. Having a professional help you unpack your grief can accelerate the healing process.
- With time and practice, your triggers will become less extreme. Keep going—it gets easier.
Triggers Can Be Our Teachers
If you are experiencing triggers that make you feel out of control and feel like they are keeping your healing at a standstill, you are not alone. We see you, we know you’re hurting, and want to offer you a safe place to share your story and feel supported in your healing journey. Contact us today to set up a free discovery call and spend some time with us – we’re here for you.
Sharon Brubaker is a certified Life Coach and credentialed Grief Specialist who, along with her team, teaches women who are grieving how to process their thoughts and emotions. To learn more about navigating grief within the family, listen to the full podcast episode here or download my free e-Book, The Griever’s Guide, which equips you with the tools to live life after grief; because no griever should have to navigate a broken heart on their own.