Your grief is unique to you. There are no rules, and there is no “appropriate time” to mourn your loss. Every person I’ve worked with experiences their own range of emotions differently. Working with somebody will help you to navigate your way through, and there will still be times when grief pops up when you least expect it.
At this time of year, the triggers are more obvious. Almost anything from card writing, to pulling the family ornaments out of the boxes, will remind you of your loved one. At other times of the year, the triggers may be more subtle. A smell which brings back a memory you had forgotten, or a song you hear in the car on our way to work.
Many grief triggers happen while sorting through a loved one’s stuff. Give yourself plenty of time and space to do this. Every item can be a trigger so it might be that you choose to take a staged approach. You need time in between for the emotions to settle – here’s some special tips around that decluttering.
Grief triggers can bring about a level of fear because you cannot predict where and when they will go off. The grief journey is emotional, overwhelming, stressful and draining at times but I want you to know that avoidance isn’t a resourceful choice. I know this to be true because I ended up with severe anxiety and agoraphobia.
Coaching will help you reach the point where your emotions begin to steady and eventually, you will respond to the triggers, rather than react. The best way to do this is to be with the memories and emotions that come up. Eventually, the emotions will feel like less of a flood and more like a gentle flow.
In the meantime, here’s 5 quick tips to help:
1. Accept that this is a thing.
The most helpful thing you can do is to be okay with the fact that your grief can be triggered, any time, any place. This doesn’t mean that you have no control over this. If and when it happens, you may wish to spend some time reflecting on the event. Triggers can come from sights, sounds, smells, tastes and imagery. If you identify what is causing you to grieve, you will have an easier time dealing with those triggers should they arise in the future.
2. Find your quiet space.
It’s true that you may be in a public place when it happens. That’s okay. You can go with the flow, or if you prefer, you can choose to take yourself off somewhere quiet, such as an empty room, your car, or a bathroom cubicle. Even home life can seem busy so find yourself a quiet space you can retreat to when you need.
3. Make a plan.
If there’s a period approaching where it’s more likely that grief triggers will occur, then be prepared. There are many things you can do to navigate the holidays.
4. Let it out.
It’s healthy to release your grief emotions. If you need to cry, then give yourself permission to. If you need to just sit quietly and contemplate, then do that. If you need to talk, grab the phone and do it. Basically, do whatever you need to centre yourself and move into the next moments of your day.
5. Talk about it.
Its cliché and it appears in almost every single one of my blogs. But after you encounter an unexpected trigger, it’s good to talk to someone to process your experience, as well as to take some tools to your toolbox for next time around. This could be a friend or family member, although professional help is going to be more effective.
All sorts of reactions to grief can leave you feeling like you’re unravelling or all over the place. To my disappointment, there is no magic wand I can wave to make it better.
If you feel like your grief is getting more intense over time and you feel stuck in it to the point of not being able to function in daily life, then it’s time to seek help. Complicated grief can lead to mental illness and other medical conditions. With professional help, you can re-gain a sense of control and start to heal.