Triggers are everywhere. And while they do become less intense over time they are always there.
What is a Trigger?
A trigger is anything that sparks intense negative emotions. Some common ones for baby loss parents are:
Seeing a baby the same age as the baby you lost
Someone announces their pregnancy
Seeing a pregnant woman
Someone says something insensitive to you
Thoughts about what you're missing
Recalling your experience
Your partner's grief
Fear of the Future
Any one of these things and more can happen at any time. You can go from neutral to deep in the depths of grief in a matter of minutes. So how do you stop it from happening?
The first thing is to identify what the triggers are that are most bothersome to you. It's different for everyone but it helps to write them down and get really specific about how they make you feel. For each trigger attach a feeling to it. "When I see a pregnant woman I feel_________" Hopeless, sad, angry- whatever that feeling is for you. As you take notice of more and more of the things that trigger you you will get very in tune with what those feelings are.
Notice your physiology
When you get triggered where do you feel it in your body? Mine feels like my heart dropped into the pit of my stomach. Some women say that the heat rises up from their necks to their faces. Some women report a stabbing in the heart feeling. Again, these sensations are unique and vary from person to person. Take notice- write them down and get in touch with where you feel it. Our bodies give us clues even before the mind knows what's happening. And the trick to intercepting negativity and re-wiring your brain is to know what is right for you. It's something we were never taught. We were taught how to look good for everyone else's sake but not for what is true in our own bodies for us.
I created this HEAL™️ method that I will walk you through. It's a framework that I have developed over the years and one that I dive deep into with my clients and it helps them to be able to take any problem, feeling, or situation and pick it apart in order to deal with it easier and pass through it quicker.
The most important part is to let the hurt be there. Yes- it's awfully uncomfortable but we are taught to stuff down uncomfortable thoughts and cover them with anything we can find to keep them tucked away because it doesn't feel good. Remember when you were a child and you were told to stop crying? No one wants to see anyone unhappy. But it's not healthy to do that because it affects our ability to process through it.
Let the tears flow. Scream, kick, punch, lay on the floor, ugly cry, whatever it is that you need to do to get it out do it. Feel every bit of it. You know how if you pull weeds from your garden but you don't get the whole root out of the ground it will sprout up again? It's the same thing with grief. If you leave it unprocessed and unfelt (is that even a word?) it will keep festering and reappearing all while its roots keep digging deeper.
I know this is a strange word to use when you are dealing with grief but it is the best step right after the hurting step that builds confidence as you pick yourself back up. This is when you tell yourself things like "I am wiser and stronger than I ever knew I could be" (or wanted to be can also be substituted), or "This experience has forever changed me but I am determined to not let my baby's life be in vain- I will find a way to use this experience for good". It may take a few tries for you to get yourself on this track of thinking (especially if you are tired) but with practice, it will get better and better and you will surprise yourself with the badass thoughts you will come up with. Again- write a few down for your arsenal to pull out and use when you need them. Make these statements powerful and even a little out of your comfort zone if you need to but this is where you are showing up for your baby as the resilient mother they know you to be.
This is reality. Accept that you can't change the past, Accept that you are forever a different person. Accept the responsibility to choose to keep moving forward and healing in your own way or to stay stuck and miserable. Accept that your lifelong quest is to find all the ways your baby has brought meaning to your life, and look for the evidence they leave everywhere that lets you know they are with you. Accept that you will be a kinder, more compassionate soul to those who face this grief after you, and accept that you will have an acute awareness of how precious life is from here on out. No one ever chooses to be here (and no one ever would!) but it is here in the acceptance phase that you decide how you want to use this experience.
Breathe. Live life. Laugh. Reconnect with anyone who you want to be a part of your "new" life. You have experienced a huge reset since the day your baby was stillborn and your baby would want you to go on and be happy. Think about how you will honor them. This is the stage where piece by piece you get to sort out all the things you want to keep from your old life and incorporate them into this "New Normal" Where you have a keen sense of what you value in life and how you want it to be.
With some practice, you can really take down the temperature of any trigger that comes up throughout the years. Yes- I said years. The wound that was created the moment you heard the 4 most awful words ever spoken will be there and accessible at the strangest events and times throughout your life but knowing how to take the power away from the trigger is what healing is all about.
Jennifer Senn is a Pregnancy Loss Recovery Coach and helps women who are struggling after the loss of their babies find hope and healing so that they can live a life full of possibility again. She can be reached at email@example.com or on her website at jennifersenn.com