Grief is never linear. There’s no guarantee that as the years pass, the pain won’t sting anymore. The more accurate depiction of this journey is a zigzag: there are spikes, slumps and stagnancy of emotions along the way.
Most of the time, what makes loneliness so palpable are reminders of your loved one. The best way to keep your sanity intact while mourning is to recognize such. Here are a few grief triggers you should know and the ways you can cope.
Watch out for days of celebration, including the birthdays of the deceased and surviving family members, wedding anniversaries, Christmas and New Year. For sure, you’ve built some kind of a tradition around these annual events, so it’s likely that you’ll feel the absence of your loved one all the more. You’ll long for their company. You’ll want to hear their jokes, infectious laugh and wise life advice yet again.
The worst thing you can do when anticipating these special days is to assure yourself that you’re going to be okay. Don’t pretend that everything’s okay when it’s not. That will just add to the emotional turmoil you’re going through. Let yourself mourn if you need to. If it helps to take a step back from the parties and the dinners, then do it. Spend some time in your loved one’s grave instead as a way of commemorating the event.
Sounds, Smells and Tastes
When on special occasions, you can get yourself ready for a surge of emotions before the actual day. But when it comes to random smells, sounds, and tastes, you rarely get that chance to compose yourself precisely because they come to you by surprise.
You’re probably at the cafe with your friends when suddenly the aroma of your deceased loved one’s favorite cup of coffee fills the air or the song that was played at the burial comes on. You remember how you weren’t ready for that inevitable time to say goodbye while the people were laying down the casket in Salt Lake City.
This can trigger a lot of issues, which have been left unaddressed at the time of loss. You may experience pain more intense than when the death was just recent. In these instances, you may want to see a counseling therapist or a grief support group so you can better deal with such matters.
Much like the point above, you often don’t get the chance to get yourself ready for sentimental objects. You could just be buying stuff at the hardware store when you find a ladder that looks just like what your deceased loved one bought years before when you were renovating your fixer-upper. Or, you could be cleaning out your kitchen cabinet when you stumble upon the wine bottle that was served on your wedding day.
These can throw you into an emotional roller coaster, with nostalgia, sadness, regret, anger and frustration mixing up. What you need to do in these instances is to focus on what’s good about your relationship with your loved one instead of what you lost. Write down the good memories in your journal. Turn that grief into joy.
Again, grief is never a steady, straight journey. Just when you know you’re okay, you’re hit by a memory of your loved one that sends you right into the sadness pit again. So be prepared for grief triggers. Make an action plan as early as now.