Triggers are sights, sounds, actions, people, situations, songs that trigger an emotional response. They may produce uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, panic, discouragement, despair, or negative self-talk.
Fireworks can trigger PTSD. A lighter can trigger craving for those who are or were addicted. Chronic illness can trigger anxiety and so on.
Grief triggers are reminders of the one I lost.
In my case, that’s a tow-headed, white blonde three-year-old boy at the beach or a curly headed, tall skinny teenager playing lousy basketball. I see it and I stop, stare, and watch the movie in my head.
There are songs that trigger my tears and make my heart hurt. And seasons like the holidays which trigger grief depression that renders me catatonic and unmotivated. Events can remind me me of the depth of Charles’ kindness to others and still others are unwelcome reminders of when things were pure chaos in our household. Days when I curled up into a ball and wanted to move to Peru and live in a cave until that shit storm blew over.
Sometimes those triggers feel like land mines. I have learned not to dodge them but to expose myself to them repeatedly so they lose their power to bring me down. Some triggers initiate a tender moment instead of despair. It’s only now that certain pictures of Charles make me smile instead of taking me to my knees.
Don’t get me wrong I still have those moments, those days, and those seasons where triggers are all negative. But three years after Charles’ suicide, I am finding that I can savor some memories without sadness. Not all the time but a lot of the time.
This is progress. At least I think so.