Monday, January 16, 2012


from here

Maybe what grief triggers do is peel back all my layers to where my original pain lies.
I might be constructing a new life for myself out of the rubble his death left behind and really kicking ass. I might go days or even weeks without losing hope or crying. Then, something will happen that may or may not be a big deal and all the progress I've seemingly made is peeled away to show me, in sharp contrast, what I am still grieving. Sometimes, the layers get peeled back to before the most recent tragedy and remind me that I'm still grieving old losses, too.

My own recent trigger peeled back the layers of growth to the original pain I carry with me - the loss of my mother and the ensuing childhood raised by someone who always seemed burdened by my presence. His behavior managed to program my child's brain to believe that I was a hardship. Many years of my own work on myself and a 15 year relationship helped to restore much of my self-worth. When Dave died, I continued to see proof of my inherent worth when the people who care about me freely gave of their love and kept me afloat during my darkest times.

But a recent grief trigger that got at my sense of worth seemingly unraveled much of this work. Not permanently, of course. And it won't take years to weave it back together again. It'll take days, maybe weeks, tops. But it's a reminder of how I carry old pain with me. Not just Dave's death, which takes up most of the space in my heart right now, but ancient hurts that aren't fully healed.

I think that's why grief triggers can be so insidious. I think they're just triggering the grief of my most recent loss, but it might actually be a compounded pain they trigger. One pain leads to another, leads to another, leads to another. They get all wrapped up in each other and almost indistinguishable.
Add that to a chronic worrier and over-thinker and it's a grief storm extravaganza.

Fortunately, with the help of dedicated friends, I know I can weather the storms. In the middle of the storm I forget this fact and need to be reminded, but after having ridden many out, I have proof that they are not permanent and that there is an end in sight.

Triggers are a part of everyday life. They will find me even if I don't open myself up to them. Unfortunately, just living life makes me vulnerable to them. And living life without letting fear rule me REALLY opens me up to them. Rejection or further loss can be powerful triggers.

But they'll be there in mundane places too. My mailbox, my iPod, my kitchen, the realty sign in my yard. All unavoidable.

Each time a trigger gets me, it builds my strength. The next trigger might not hit quite so hard and my recovery from it might be quicker and easier. None of that means it won't hurt just as much as always, or even MORE than ever before, though. That's another realization I've made. To be reminded that the pain won't last doesn't resolve the pain itself. It might give me enough hope to ride out that current storm, but it doesn't eliminate the pain and the pain grinds me to a halt. And that is okay. It's okay to feel too heavy to move. It's okay to admit that the weight of the grief is too heavy to bear standing up under and to let it take me down.

As soon as the weight lessens, though, I have to take my chance to stand up again and run with it, getting my feet underneath me again and readying myself for the next hurdle life sends me.

So today, the weight lessened enough to stand up under it and make some plans for moving forward.
Now I can build up strength again and attempt to live life without the fear of the next storm's arrival.

That is my daily challenge.


  1. a grief storm extravaganza.


  2. Cassie, Such an open and real post. I believe that too, all grief triggers the other places we have grieved and revives the pain in those places, even if they are very old.
    I lost my mother to cancer as a grown woman, I can't imagine how painful that is to lose a mother as a child. That grief will always be there - grieving the mother you wanted and still needed, even now.
    Your message reminded me of how much I miss my own Mom even now and she died in 97. But I loved to pick up the phone and hear "Hi Dear!" - so sweet.

    Grief does have its layers. Oh, when you said the ipod. I am a music fanatic. I have (I confess three ipods - to hold my music) so much music that holds the weight of my grief. I chose the music for my husbands visitation at the funeral parlour - hours of music. I chose most importantly the music for his funeral service. It is the thing that mattered most to me. But there is music that when I hear it will peel back the layer of my "surviving and trying to thrive" and bring me to my knees.
    It is so true to say t's okay to admit that the weight of the grief is too heavy to bear standing up under and to let it take me down.
    As soon as the weight lessens, though, I have to take my chance to stand up again and run with it, getting my feet underneath me again and readying myself for the next hurdle life sends me."

    I love this - the acknowledgment of the pain and the weight of grief and that it shifts and moves and isn't always the same. Some times for me, it depends on the day and what other things I am dealing with. There are days where a song brings a tear to my eye and other times I sob so hard I have to pull the car over. It can be the same song, just a different day.

    BUT - as long as we can stand up again! I really believe that - we have to tell ourselves that. I do that some mornings I lay there feeling down and I say "just get out of the fcking bed, that is all you have to do". On those very bad mornings, that is how I do it. I stand up.

    Thanks for reminding us all - we can survive any storm if we believe we can. You have enough courage to swim to shore.

  3. Oh Cassie- I love your posts. It happened to me today. Just this morning I was thinking, "Wow, I've had a busy happy week". Not 6 hours later as my sister, brother-in-law, my daughter and her boyfriend, all who visited for the weekend, left and there I was. The huge weight started getting heavier and heavier. I stood in my kitchen and sobbed." Here I am- all alone again", practically sinking to my knees while holding onto my sink. How could this be?? I was JUST thinking how happy this weekend was. Anyway, we all must stand up again, stand side by side, and get going. So I started to clean out the attic. love you!

  4. Anon 1 - "That's how I do it. I stand up."
    So true. Some days that's an accomplishment!

    Anon 2 - It's always when everyone leaves and the quiet settles in and the WEIGHT of being alone. And then, you're right. We have to stand up and get going again when we can. Good for you for cleaning out that attic!