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Triggered: The Lasting Effects of Grief and Trauma

Updated: Apr 24, 2021

The human brain is an incredibly powerful and intelligently made system that each of us has. It has the ability to conjure up memories based on the smell, taste, sounds, sights, even through words read or spoken. Without thinking, it will bring to remembrance things we thought we'd forgotten or would like to forget.

Halloween of 2019, My sister-in-law and I was walking around with our kids door to door. Her brother had passed away some 20 years ago and the day before was his birthday (I think I'm remembering that right). She talked about how his photo brought back up all the memories she had, the good and the bad, then asked an interesting question with it. Do you think we were meant to have photos and videos of the ones we lost?! We our brains meant to conjure those images of grief and trauma at will?! In the beginning of time, those things didn't exist and the grievers were left with just the memories of those passed and writings they wrote of them. Does it make grief and trauma harder to have such things on hand to look at?! These photos and videos that trigger memories, causing the same emotions felt then to flood your thoughts and heart the second you see them.

I've pondered on this point on and off in my grief journey, but lately, I find myself thinking about it more and more. It makes me wonder if our brains were always able to trigger such memories based on our senses since the beginning or maybe that's something that was developed over the years as we advanced in technology and the ability to keep memories alive through video and photo. What would grief and trauma even look like without those things? Would be easier to bare? Would we still have the same triggers we do now? Thinking on all of this made me think about my triggers and reactions that have developed through my grief. The normal ones of crying and sadness at the sight of young boys smiling and playing, to the ones that make my humor dark and my emotions numb.

With new research happening all the time, we're finding out that trauma and grief can dig deep into our minds and plant seeds that we never know exist until it gets triggered. It's fascinating and frightening at the same time. Even after 3 years, I'm finding new triggers to my grief. It can be overwhelming. We live in a world that wants us to keep moving and work despite our triggers, but it's much more difficult than that. Some triggers can be worked through and even avoided if we know what we're looking for, others live with us and seem to haunt us as long as we're breathing.

Each of our triggered seeds look and act different, leading to confusion if you're on the outside looking in. Each of us are on a path that is covered with potholes of grief, trauma, scars, and emotion.

If you're experiencing these triggers yourself: Give yourself grace and be patient with yourself. The world will tell you to move forward and shove it down, but you deserve the time and love needed to help you through your triggers. Others may not understand, but it's no reason to leave yourself behind to satisfy the people around you.

If you're on the outside looking in: Be kind, always. Everyone around you is fighting a battle no one can see and the best thing you can do is spread kindness, even if it looks like someone doesn't want it. People remember the kind person who smiled at them when they were down or the uplifting word that was spoken when they never asked for it. In a world where you can be right and justified, I hope you choose to be kind and helpful.

That's all from me this week! What do you think grief would look like without the photos and the videos?! I'm curious to see your answers! I hope you enjoyed this special Friday blog and I'll see you next week!

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