Land Mines and Triggers with Grief

“You don’t get over the death of a child or spouse. You just learn to live with the grief.” I’ve heard that a million times from a million people, but I am only now beginning to understand.

In those first months, almost everything is a first and you are always on guard for triggers. The waves of grief are nearly constant, so they almost never hit you by surprise. Later on they come less frequently and sometimes completely out of the blue. Sometimes you aren’t expecting the trigger, like when you get a call out of the blue from one of his friends who just heard about the death. Sometimes you don’t expect the event to be a trigger, like the first time you fill the house with smoke. Sometimes there isn’t a thing or an event, the pain of the loss just hits hard.

As I’ve returned again to something that resembles a normal life, as much as being a full time working mom and a stay at home mom at the same time can be, it feels a bit like returning home to a country that has been ravaged by war only to find there are land minds left behind everywhere.

I guess this is what they mean by learning to live with grief. What would have been a completely normal and pleasant day before Shah died, felt treacherous and threatened to send me back to bed. It wouldn’t have been unhealthy for me to go back to bed and cry for hours. It would have been a normal reaction to a painful loss. But today I followed the plan my therapist and I talked about and talked through the triggers as they happened with different friends, so fingers crossed, I’ll still be moving tomorrow. The land mines were many today and I wasn’t expecting any of them.

    It was the breakfast at The Temple that I haven’t been to since Shah and I were there when I was pregnant. All I could think of was how much I wished he was still here.
  • Then the random announcement that one of our partners is working with Lyft, which was a project Shah and I talked a lot about and one I’ve been putting together with some field experts.
  • Then it was the email I came across when looking for an old contract that he wrote when we were dating, explaining how he grew up during the end of the Iran Iraq war and all he wanted for his children was for them to feel safe and at peace, physically and mentally.
  • Then, as I vented about on Facebook, the window estimators drilled me again about whether I was the only owner of my home and further did anyone else need to be consulted.

None of these seem like huge things in and of themselves, but all of them make it feel like I’m trying to walk up stream in a flooded river while everyone else is walking parallel to me on the shore.

So to my many friends who have lost a spouse let me say, we sure may be able to keep up with everyone else, but it’s about 10 times as hard. So good job. If you got out of bed today, you won. Yes, it was incredibly hard to keep going. Let’s do it again tomorrow.

And because laughter helps… When the pest control guy was in my house and asked what my husband’s name was, I told him Shah and decided the fact that he was dead was none of this guys business. So later when he went in our bedroom to spray and saw all the huge pictures of Shah on every wall that I put up so Zoya can have a continuous memory, I just kept a straight face. There is no way he didn’t call someone when he left to talk about this husband that had large pictures of himself on every wall in the bedroom.

1 comment on “Land Mines and Triggers with Grief

  1. Camila, What a beautiful way you have with words and capturing the essence of life, death and grief. This writing is so therapeutic and will also be a journal for Zoya and you to look back on in the years to come. She will be so proud of you for living with and fighting the grief and recording it for her. I became totally aware of a trigger when I met you at the Hawkins reception at the Commerce Club and we had that beautiful view of the clouds and sky. I think I said to Zoya something about us being in the clouds and closer to Heaven. I immediately sensed her anxiety. I was so sorry to have said something that would distress her, but I watched her quickly rebound. We never know until it strikes what will trigger our memories and emotions.
    Continuing to keep Zoya and you in my prayers,
    Vllda Brannen


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