In grief sometimes you feel alright, like you might have made it through the hard stuff. Maybe you will be better from now on. Then it hits… again. Grief comes in waves. Sometimes the waves come for no reason and sometimes they are triggered.
Triggers can be what you’d expect, like holidays or a due date. Sometimes they can come out of nowhere.
I can see 50 babies stroll by and be fine, and then for some reason the 51st baby makes me break down in tears. I have no idea why.
I think the most random and unexpected trigger I experienced was when I was lying on the couch. My head was resting on my arm. I faintly heard my pulse through my arm and suddenly started weeping. It wasn’t until a few moments later that I realized it was the sound of my heartbeat that made me cry. It was the first time I heard a heart beat since Ginny’s. It was the first time I actually heard a heartbeat after my ears were expecting one on that Monday afternoon.
Some triggers aren’t bad. They can still make you cry but out of love. Sunflowers are a beautiful trigger for both me and Daniel. Ginny’s nursery and pregnancy announcement had sunflowers. They remind us of her and our love for her. Daniel studies sunflowers, so daily he tends a greenhouse full of them. I know that must be hard for him to be surrounded by triggers, but it is also a sweet reminder of the love we have.
Some of our friends know this. One couple left a vase of sunflowers on our porch on the 6th-month anniversary of Ginny’s birth. Another sweet friend planted sunflowers in her garden. I’m so grateful that they remember Ginny.
While sunflowers trigger an outpour of love, other triggers lead to bitterness. The worst is when someone complains even though they are so blessed. It is especially bad when someone complains about being pregnant or about having a newborn. At best I’ll cringe; at worst I’ll have a breakdown. “I’m so over being pregnant.” Don’t you know how lucky you are?! I don’t know what’s worse – your ungratefulness or your ignorance!
I try to keep myself from getting bitter. I try to put myself in other’s shoes. It is really hard to be pregnant, and it is really hard to care for a newborn. It is legitimate to complain. I know these challenges are a part of life, but knowing what it is like to be without, I just want people to be grateful for what they have. It is hard for me to have sympathy. It feels like someone winning the lottery and then complaining about a small paper cut the check gave them.
If your baby doesn’t breastfeed, you are blessed. If your baby doesn’t sleep at night, you are blessed. If your baby has colic, you are blessed. If your baby survived the NICU, you are blessed. If you got to hold your baby alive, you are blessed. Don’t take anything for granted.
I got to hold my baby’s body, and I will always treasure that memory. I’m so grateful for it because I know not everyone even gets that.
I want people to rejoice and celebrate their babies! Admit and proclaim your blessings! You won’t jinx it, I promise. I love when my friends post pictures of their families with gratitude. “How did I get this lucky?” “I love my little family!” These posts make some of the bitterness melt away for me.
This experience has made me more aware of triggers in general. Am I triggering someone going through a hard time? When I posted a happy 34th wedding anniversary message to my parents, I thought of my friend who was recently divorced. Did this post trigger her tears? That thought would’ve never cross my mind before my grief. We shouldn’t stop sharing life in fear of triggering someone, but we can be more aware and considerate.
I felt so terrible the other day when I was walking along the street after dinner. I was telling Daniel how full I was, “I’m stuffed! I shouldn’t have eaten that dessert.” Then I realized I just walked past a homeless man who was probably hungry. I’m sure he thought, “Don’t you know how lucky you are?! I don’t know what’s worse – your ungratefulness or your ignorance!”
Perspective is everything. We should try to step back for a minute and pay attention to those around us. Are we taking anything for granted? What can we do to help someone replace bitterness with love?