“What Are Your Triggers?”

I have to be honest; it’s been a while since anything has “triggered” an intense emotional response.  These responses are much fewer and farther between than in my early days of grief.  After the death of my daughter Katie, I wouldn’t even allow myself to respond to the triggers.  I had trained my mind to “change the thought or situation” immediately.  It was my way to control my feelings and pain, which, looking back wasn’t the best decision on my part. 

After the death of my son Noah I had no choice but to allow myself to feel the full impact of not only his death, but also my daughter’s death that occurred just 18 months prior.  Having gone both routes (avoidance and engagement) in the grieving process, I now believe that suppressing ones emotions goes against the body and minds natural processing of the events.  Basically, I allowed myself to feel and process the triggers after the death of my son, therefore after a couple of years, the triggers started to become fewer and father between.

However, with that being said, that doesn’t mean that there are not times where my emotions are triggered by thoughts or actions by others.  It just means that it doesn’t happen as easy or as often as it once did.

The reason I decided to write about this topic is the fact that I recently experienced one of those triggers.  It wasn’t brought on by a song on the radio or something someone had said to me, this was brought on by a dream I had a few nights ago.

Although I don’t remember everything about the dream, I do remember the specifics as to what triggered my emotions.  In my dream, I was having a conversation with someone I didn’t know and this person was telling me about a complex task that he wanted me to do (I don’t remember the specifics of the task).  When he was explaining the difficulty of the task to me he stated “it’s almost as hard as burying a child”.  In my dream, as soon as he spoke those words, I started to weep.  Not sure why it triggered my emotions, but I think it had something to do with the fact that it bothered me that this person would associate the difficulty of a “task” with the difficulty of burying a child or the fact that he acknowledged the difficulty of burying a child.  Not sure, but it triggered emotions within my dream. 

The dream went on for a while longer, but then I woke up and thought about what this person had said to me.  I then woke up my wife to tell her about my dream and when I got to the point in the dream where I had to repeat the words “it’s almost as hard as burying a child”, I broke down and started to cry.  Not sure why, it’s not like I have forgotten that I have buried two beautiful children.  I think it has a lot to do with the fact that reality sits in. 

Every once in a while I will be driving or sitting at my desk and the reality of the situation will sit in, it doesn’t cause me to breakdown emotionally, but I will catch myself shaking my head and thinking what the fuck.  It will also trigger certain life questions like:  How am I still functioning?  How have I been able to continue on?  Why do I still tolerate certain things in my life?  Why do I still work so hard, I have no one to pass my life down to?  Who will take care of me when I am old?  Will anyone come and visit me or will I sit alone by myself?  Why am I not living my life to the fullest?  The questions go on and on.  It’s not like I sit around all the time thinking about these questions, but they will occasionally cross my mind, some much more than others.

How about you?  What triggers your emotions or life questions?

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User Comments ( 8 )

  • Julie rothery

    Its the hidden triggers that you have to learn to decipher,certain noises and smells that affect you physically.Pushing a shopping trolly and a noise places you following your childs dead body being taken to the morgue.People around you smiling and chatting not knowing the child on the trolly is dead.Then your back in the supermarket with terror in your eyes,cant breath and you have to carry on.But we do evolve into stronger people to carry this burden of grief.I promise.

  • John Wolfe

    I am only a week shy of 2 months since Allison’s passing and I don’t have a whole lot of triggers as of yet. I suspect I will in time, but not now. If there are any triggers, it would be songs. Not necessarily songs that we shared together, as our musical tastes were very different (go figure), but rather the words of a certain song that I listened to at a particular time in her life. But rather than breaking down, I feel a tingly feeling come over me and a sense of peace, almost as if Allison is sending me this song to console me.

    • John,

      Yes, in time you will probably experience these triggers. Not trying to be negative, just honest. However, it is just part of the process of comprehending what has happened to your daughter.

      There will be times when these triggers take you by surprise and when you least expect them.

      I am glad you feel a since a peace with music that connects you to various moments in your daughters life.

      We are here when you need us.



  • Soon after Rach died, I realized I had hundreds of triggers and attached to each trigger was 100 lies. I called them “emotional terrorists”. The triggers would rack me emotionally. When a trigger would hit, I experienced the intense propensity to lie to myself. I knew early on that if I gave in and tried to avoid those triggers, that they would never go away and probably control the rest of my life. I committed to evaluating each trigger and each lie. It was the best thing I ever did. Even though I have many triggers, I am not controlled by any of them.

    • Steve,

      “Emotional terrorists”. I like that term. Evaluating the truth behind each one of these “triggers” is an important part healing. Trying to avoid them is a way of giving them power of you. As painful as they are to evaluate, they become less painful each time you visit them.


  • “How am I still functioning? How have I been able to continue on? ” Are the kind of questions I wonder at too.

    I have realised, that for me, some triggers are dangerous. I don’t discuss my daughter’s sudden illness, it doesn’t mean I am ever not thinking about it, but discussions bring thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’. I see this as a matter of survival. I also avoid festivities and celebrations – music also makes me cry, so I avoid music. And I avoid people who I feel are out to offer solutions and advise – they are triggers too.

    But some other triggers like my daughter’s photographs, her laptop, her blog – I don’t avoid, maybe delay a little for day when one is feeling stronger, but not really avoid.

    • Indian Homemaker,

      I agree, avoidance is probably not the best approach to dealing with “triggers”. I think they are there to help bring out our emotions as a way to cleanse our souls that have been bruised.

      Thank you for sharing.


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