In less than twenty-four hours my father and I board the plane in Romania and head for home. Its been a fantastic week. New friendships started, old friends greeted, new foods eaten, lives shared, encouragement given and received for the journey ahead. As I prepare to leave, I find myself energized and expectant about the future.
Three years ago I was in the same position. My father and I had just completed a similar trip to Romania. I returned home full of excitement about what was to come. One month later, Kristi was diagnosed with cancer and we were plunged down the rabbit hole that is cancer treatment. Expectation was thwarted, dreams crushed and hope smothered.
That was an awful time, not so far removed that the emotions are deeply buried. It doesn’t require much effort to dig them up. If I wanted. But I choose not to. I choose to not burden this experience in Romania with the negative events that followed my last visit. “You are wise, Chad. You would be foolish to live in such a way.” I can hear the comments now. But that choice wasn’t automatic or quick. Loss and grief of this magnitude color all your decisions.
Obviously this trip has brought to mind the previous one and the events that followed. Its been a natural trigger. I knew it would be before I even agreed to come. I knew I’d be faced with this situation again. But rather than cowering in fear of what comes next, I’ve chosen to walk through this trip and the events that follow with expectation of a different outcome.
When dealing with loss and grief, you encounter trigger events all the time. As I wrote here, many of those events are little things that surprise you. You have two choices when you encounter trigger events, especially those you see coming: Avoid or Embrace
Avoidance can be especially helpful, especially when the grief or loss is fresh. I took my children and skipped out on the usual Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations the first year by going to the other side of the world. We still celebrated but in a way that was so new and unique that it didn’t drag us through all the emotions and pain we were still processing.
But this year I embraced all the holiday celebrations. We fully decorated the house, even doing it before Thanksgiving. There were many trigger events throughout the season that I had to wade through and process. But I was prepared this year and we had a wonderful time together as a family. Poignant with loss yes, but filled with joy nevertheless.
As you approach an event that you know is going to trigger feelings of grief and loss, ask yourself, “Is it OK to pull this trigger?” “Am I ready for this?” There’s no shame in saying no. Its your call. Don’t feel obligated to move forward when you’re not yet ready. The time will come. You’ll know it. And then you can pull the trigger, step into the event and live. If you’re not there yet, know that the day will come. There is hope.
If you’re trapped in fear of trigger events, avoiding them at all costs, and have been stuck there for a while with avoidance your only coping tool, try some training. You’ll be amazed at how good a brisk walk, bike ride or jog will make you feel. You’ll feel better prepared to face those events and pull that trigger to get life moving again.