When you lose a child, you’re committed to a life sentence of dealing with triggers. It’s difficult for those who haven’t been through it to understand that these things come out of nowhere, and the intensity at which they hit you. I never even knew that triggers existed until we’d lost Brady. Triggers stop you in your tracks and hit you like a metaphorical traumatic brain injury.
When it comes to triggers, there are things that “make sense” to others, as in, they can understand that seeing pregnant women would trigger a woman whose pregnancy ended far too soon, and then there are plenty more that are less easily understood. An important thing to remember is that while some individuals have similar triggers, like anything else grief-related, there is no such thing as “one size fits all.”
Back to those pregnant women. I never really noticed how much of the world is pregnant, until you’ve had a child born far too soon. After Brady passed away, each time I went to Target, I would see no less than 3 pregnant women. In all fairness, they can’t help it, but that also doesn’t make them less of a trigger. For me, the emotion triggered just by seeing these women is jealousy. I never got to experience a third trimester. Then, there’s the worst breed of pregnant women, the ones that complain. When overhearing these kinds of complaints, I roll my eyes. I can’t help it. Dear pregnant complaining woman, know what’s worse than whatever absolutely awful third trimester thing you’re going through? Not getting that third trimester at all, idiot. It’s hard for me to not call those women idiots, so I won’t even try.
Another common trigger is newborns. Having seen and interacted with newborns shortly after Brady passed away, I thought I was in the clear. I thought I was some weird loss mom who somehow wasn’t triggered by newborns. I’m still okay with newborn babies themselves, but what I really can’t take are other people cooing over newborn babies. In my experience, the cooing usually comes from an overweight, middle-aged woman. Picture exaggerated hands-over-the-heart, clutch-my-pearls hand motions and that annoying clucking noise that older women make. Gross. In the specific situation I’m thinking about, the situation was made worse by the fact that this particular newborn wasn’t even cute. For whatever reason, cooing over an ugly baby is exponentially more offensive than cooing over a legitimately cute baby. It’s hard to hold back tears in these situations. I just want to scream, “I have an SUPER cute baby you should be cooing over!” but they can’t, because Brady isn’t here anymore.
The word “infection” has a profound impact on me. Brady’s cause of death was infection. Since Brady passed away, my 84-year-old grandma has dealt with infection twice. While it’s obviously not an ideal situation, thankfully, she’s fine. That being said, when I read the word “infection” in a text, it immediately puts me into a panic. My mind jumps to the worse case scenario, even though the odds of that happening are extremely low. I received one text in particular that mixed the words “infection” (read: danger!) with “I’ll give you details when we talk” (read: not urgent?). Sending that mixed signal put me into a chaotic and stressful mental state. I wish others could understand how triggering that word is for me, and avoid using it in delayed communications. If you absolutely need to talk to me on the phone, the best thing is to just call and not preface the call with a triggering text.
My cell phone ring was a really unexpected trigger. I rarely have my ringer on, but I kept it on while Brady was in the NICU since the doctors would oftentimes call us with an update after they’d done morning rounds. After a couple of missed calls because my phone was on silent, the ringer got switched on. Being woken by that ringer in the middle of the night on January 29th, and knowing that the news couldn’t be good, that ring tone became the ultimate trigger. I recall hearing it again, a couple of days after Brady passed away, and the sound physically made me sick. I changed my ring tone, but I can’t change everyone else’s ring tones. It was only a few weeks ago that I was in a coffee shop and heard that tone. It still triggers dread in the pit of my stomach.
These are only a handful of the triggers I’ve experienced. Perhaps the emotions they trigger will fade or lessen over time, but I also know that even as some of these triggers fade, others will replace them.