Tips For Overcoming Triggers And The Summertime Blues

This blog post was first published at Still Standing Magazine.

park-troopers-221403-unsplash.jpg

Summertime! Long days and warmer weather make this time of year exciting for most of us. We get to enjoy increased outdoor activities, beautiful summer nights and fun-filled family vacations. But for others, it really isn’t all that great. It’s one long rollercoaster ride of triggers and you’re actually peeking from under the seat waiting for it to be over.

If you’re experiencing grief during this season, here are a few tips on overcoming triggers and the summertime blues.

With a little work, you can enjoy the ride again!

1. Honor your humanity.

Be honest with yourself about why you are avoiding particular activities, people, or places.

For years I would make every effort to avoid the baby department at Target. It was a trigger for me. While pregnant, I often visited and visualized what life would be like as a new mommy. I remember all the cute summer outfits in the store. I would see the beach toys and imagine what vacationing would be like for our little family. It was a part of the dream that I had for my baby. And when he died, so did that dream.

One day while shopping for a friend, I had to admit why I was avoiding the baby section. I decided to honor my pain. No more running and avoiding. The tears fell as strolled down the aisles, but I embraced each drop.

Honor your grief — the feelings of hurt, disappointment, anger, shame, guilt, frustration, and sadness. Honor it. Whatever you may be feeling in the moment, be honest with yourself and embrace it. Embracing it will propel you forward.

Related: 40 Special Ways To Honor Your Child

2. Say something.

Share your pain with someone. You are not alone. It may feel like no one understands, but you are not alone.

 

While lying at the pool during our most recent family vacation, a complete stranger walked up to me with tears in her eyes. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the area was full of kids having lots of family fun. This woman paused in front of my chair and whispered, “I’m sorry, but I’m just so sad.” I jumped up and asked her what was wrong. She shared with me that her husband had died 16 months earlier and being on vacation without him had become unbearable. It was her trigger.

She didn’t want the kids to see her cry so she walked over in my direction. I shared some encouraging words with her and gave her a big hug. In our embrace, she laid into my shoulder and wept. If only for a moment, she was not alone in her pain.

We were total strangers, and I will admit that it caught me off guard. But at that moment she needed to share her pain with someone and a not-so-strange stranger was available.

Related: Supporting You in Grief Saved Me Too

Our experience with grief allowed us to have something in common.

I don’t know the pain of losing a husband, but I was available for her. My husband was actually standing a few feet away, but I was still able to empathize with and support her. We bonded. She was not alone.

Don’t be afraid to share your pain with others.

Your support can come from unexpected places. Family, friends, medical professionals or total strangers — find someone and say something.

Allow the universe to respond to your needs. You are not alone.

3. Create new memories.

It’s impossible to erase the trauma that comes after infant loss. However, creating new memories can help frame it with healing.

July is traditionally one of my least favorite times of the year. It harbors the most painful memories of my son’s birth and death. July is a trigger. Every year I’ve anticipated it “getting better” but time has not healed that wound. This year we chose the love of family and the joys of a family vacation. We’ve discovered that it’s not time that heals old wounds, its love.

Shower your life with love.

You may decide to memorialize your loss in an intimate and personal way. Create a keepsake, volunteer with a local charity, or host a commemorative event. Plant a tree, release butterflies, or have an annual party. Whatever you decide, become intentional about creating new memories during this season.

Create new memories anchored in love.

4. Always remember.

Facing your pain can be scary. Not only is it scary to go to the depth of your agony. But many fear that healing will cause them to forget that the pain ever existed, that they’ll forget that their baby existed.

Related: Keeping their spirit and memory alive

Truth is, you’ll always remember. The trigger may begin to retreat. And the pain may dwindle. But the scars will make sure that you never forget.

So go ahead and face your fears. It’s safe to pull the trigger on your healing.

May your summertime blues be highlighted with beautiful sun rays!

Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash


Parenting After Loss: He Knows

This blog post was first published at Still Standing Magazine.

HeKnowsBlog.jpg

As the years pass, and I spend them parenting after loss, I’m amazed at how our son, Keegan, responds to having a brother whom he has never seen. Keegan is 4 years old. And he knows. He knows that he has a big brother.

While pregnant I was concerned about parenting after loss. I wasn’t sure how my heart would handle it. Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure if my heart could handle it. But somehow my heart can love on earth and beyond. So, Keegan, he knows. He knows my heart. Yes, parenting after loss is so hard in what they know.

He knows that he has a big brother.

I imagined sitting down with my son one day to have “the talk”.

I didn’t know what I would say during this talk, but I imagined the day would come and I would have to tell him. Tell him all about his brother who lived for seven days. But he knows.

It all happened organically. No intentions or plans. It just happened.

Related: Siblings Grieve Too

We took our son to the gravesite of his big brother when he was about 6-7 months old. I bawled during that visit. Actually, my husband and I both cried our eyes out that day. It may be one of the few times that I’ve felt pure anger about our loss. I was angry that my sons would never get to know each other. Angry that we were visiting a cemetery instead of planning his 7th birthday party. I was angry that my son was staring at a headstone instead of his brother’s face. And I was angry that my heart was still broken.

I was angry.

Angry that he knows!

We had another visit about a year later. This time our son was a little older and we cried less. It was his first formal introduction. We didn’t explain much, but we told him that we were visiting his brother. I was worried about how his two-year-old mind would process such information. I didn’t know how it would make him feel. What he would say.

 

But, he knows. Now every time we pass a cemetery that looks similar, he smiles and says “my brother is there.”

He smiles!

He smiles because he knows.

As time continues to pass, he sometimes speaks of his brother. While playing, he’ll smile and say he’s playing with his brother.

Related: Brotherly Love; How Sibling Loss Shadows the Surviving Child

When he learns a new trick, he’ll smile and say his brother taught him.

Our son Colby died nearly 7 years before Keegan was born. And he knows.

I was afraid of him knowing. But the thought makes him smile. Every time, he smiles.

That makes my heart happy.

He knows.

And he smiles.

 

Photo Credit: LKP Studio


Marriage After Loss: My Man Is From Mars

This blog post was first published at Still Standing Magazine.

KierraMars.jpg

Back in the 90’s John Gray, Ph.D. released a book titled Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus. The book became somewhat of a staple in pop culture and is lauded as an essential tool for couples who want to develop more satisfying relationships with their partners. This idea that men and women are from different planets highlights the reality that not only do we communicate differently, but as John explains, men and women “think, feel, perceive, react, respond, love, need, and appreciate differently.”

This concept shows up front and center when dealing with child loss. My man is from Mars!

In the days and weeks following our son’s death, I remember looking at my husband and thinking, “Is he even upset?!”

I was struggling daily to hold it together. Seems like every breath was laced with pain. It was an internal battle of should I cry today or end it all. It was serious for me. I was fighting for my life. I couldn’t work, sleep, or eat, and I could barely talk. Numb. Empty. I felt like a shell of myself. Completely changed.

My husband, however, seemed much like himself. He was upbeat at times. And went right back to work as if nothing ever happened. He continued to take care of our home… and me. It’s as if this was all familiar to him. He knew what to do.

How is that?!

My husband was taught how to grieve when he was six years old. His father was killed one night and he was told the traumatizing news the next morning before going off to school. He’s shared with me that he was very confused and didn’t know what to think or say at the time. The six-year-old boy inside admits that no one actually knew what to say. But he knew what he had to do, get up and go to school.

While I attempt to understand how our son’s death has affected my husband, I’m often expecting him to reveal emotions that he was never taught to express. In many ways, he was actually taught to suppress those emotions. And now as a man, he has learned to embrace and conquer confrontations without fear. Even in times of grief and loss.

Allowing space for healing in our relationship has been critical to our journey. I’ve had feelings of resentment because my husband appeared to move on with the rest of the world. My frustrations bubble up when I feel that he is disconnected from the depth of my pain. I want him to feel what I feel. Respond like I respond. Act like I act.

Related: 5 Tips For Holding On To Your Marriage When Grieving

 

I eventually let go of those expectations. It was all unfair to him. Besides, I’m from Venus.

And I’ve accepted that my man is Mars!

Mars is his six-year-old self’s bedroom.

The bedroom that taught him how to grieve.

The place that taught him to suppress his emotions.

That moment that taught him that even in times of grief, get up and go to school.

Yes, my man is from Mars. And if we truly want to heal our relationship, we have to go into that bedroom and confront Mars.

He can cry on Mars. It’s okay to be disappointed, angry and hurt on Mars. He can express his true feelings on Mars.

Mars is his safe haven. Our safe haven.

My man is from Mars.

And our healing is on Mars!

Related: Grieving Dads: On The Importance Of Your Self-Care

 

Photo Credit: whoislimos / Unsplash