I think about "grief triggers" every year at this time because Kathleen died on September 27. The combination of that date along with the beginning of the Fall season always brings both Monica and I down a little. This year there are the added factors of my Dad's death in June and the fact that our youngest child went off to college Labor Day weekend. For the first time in nearly 29 years, we are without kids in the house! (don't do the math)
So, what do you do when you think time has passed, you are doing quite well with your sadness, and then something comes along that makes you feel like you just took a giant step backward?
First of all, I think you need to be able to recognize what is happening. Even after all these years, when Monica and I get a little sad around the time school is starting, I still fail to catch on right away as to what might be adding to that sadness. I guess it seems like it shouldn't be happening any more.
Once you recognize what might be triggering your sadness, the next step is to acknowledge it and know that it's ok to feel that way. It does not mean that you are starting over in your grieving and all the progress you have made is going down the drain. It certainly does not mean that you are losing your mind. But, it also doesn't mean that it's the last time it will ever happen.
I have come to realize that these moments are not only gifts because they make me pause and reflect, they also continue to teach me something.
When Kathleen died, our priest let us down in ways that were nearly unforgiveable, and I have never since set foot inside the church we were members of at that time. Even though we made the move to the suburbs years ago and no longer live near that building, it's not far from my office. Over theyears I have tried to avoid it when I drive down the beautiful street it is located on. This summer, due to road construction, I had to alter my route to work and drove by the church every day. To add to my dilemma, there is a stoplight right in front and I often find myself sitting at that intersection longer than I wish. At first, I did not turn my head. Soon I was glancing that direction but not letting myself really think about it. But then, as the weeks went by, I started letting myself feel my anger and soon realized that it was time to let go of it. Not only is that priest long gone from the parish, I realized how silly it was to not let myself see the beauty of that massive building and recall the positive things that happened when we were members. I had to ask myself who I was really hurting?
I guess my point is that if we remain open to letting ourselves both recognize our grief as well as acknowledge it, there is still room to both grow and heal.