Last week while I was driving and waiting at the stoplight, I glanced in my rearview mirror. The driver of the car behind me was wearing a hat, glasses, and had a beard just like my husband. It was a trigger that took my brain on an unexpected ride out of the blue. The light changed and I drove on not looking in the rearview mirror. Memories of my husband came flooding in my mind without warning. I was jolted into a space of remembering his face and it made me smile. It also gave me an ache in my soul. It’s a strange combination of sweetness and pain as I continue on my journey.
Dr. Patrick O’Malley writes, “What we’re after is to live our grief story going forward, to embrace it and the feelings that are associated with it. We grieve because we love. And the feelings of grief and love that we experience will come up in different contexts as our lives change.” These words remind me that grief and love continue to coexist no matter how long ago we lost our loved ones.
There will be triggers throughout our lives. Anticipatory grief will be associated with dates on the calendar, special occasions, weddings, and funerals. The last wedding I attended designated a special seat that remained empty for the bride’s mother who had died. Acknowledgment was given out of love. Then there will be the spontaneous triggers that come without a memo, the ones that we can’t see coming. A place, a smell, a person, or an image that signals our brain to engage can feel unwelcome. However, at the same time, the hesitation we have to feel our grief again is an invitation to acknowledge how we loved our person and honor them in our remembering. Once again, there is evidence that we grieve because we loved as we “live our grief story going forward.”
Used with permission from Pam Luschei.