Triggers of Grief

The process of grieving is unique to each individual. While no two people will grieve the loss of their pet in exactly the same way, there are several components of grief that are shared by many. Perhaps the most common element among those who grieve is there will be many events, places, people, thoughts and times that will very unexpectedly trigger a grief episode. “After my dog died, one minute I can be laughing and fine, then the next minute I am crying and hysterical, I don’t know what happens,” is an often repeated, and very normal, expression of surprise after something triggers an event. Nearly anything can trigger a grief episode. Any one of the senses can cause a reaction: a smell that reminds you of your pet, your pet’s favorite toy, the sight of a favorite place.

There are some triggers that won’t surprise you, like holidays, your pet’s birthday, or the day your pet came into your life. Your pet was probably an integral part of family gatherings. Special rooms or places may be full of poignant memories of the past. The first year following the death is especially difficult for some as each month has its holiday, each season has its special qualities and we as humans plan and celebrate around a calendar of events. These events often mark the treasured memories of our lives, and feelings of grief on these occasions probably will come as no surprise. The common advice to wait a year before considering any major changes probably stems from the collective knowledge that every month holds its potential for a new grief trigger that will send you off on an emotional journey.

However, there are other grief triggers that will surprise you because they are more subtle. You might go to the door to call your pet, and then remember they are no longer with you. You might find an old toy under the couch, pick it up, and react very emotionally. You simply can’t tell what will trigger a grief episode or when they will take place. You can’t predict how you will react or how long it will impact you. Coping with a loss is unique to you, and mourning has no expiration date.

Just be aware that there will very likely be triggering grief episodes. When they happen, remember they are normal and you should not try to ignore or suppress whatever emotions or thoughts the event produces. Do your best, remember to use some of the techniques you have learned from your Grief Support Program, close friends, or members in your Grief Group if you participate in one. They will help you through the episodes and help to eventually lessen the feelings of loss.

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