A sports commentator was reflecting on his recent “grief” experience. It all started 18 years ago when a local sports hero was killed in an auto crash. This reporter was traveling in a Midwest city at the time. Last week he was back in that city and IT hit him! The memory of that person, that loss, just hit him by surprise. He said he felt a shudder of grief go through his body as he remembered “the last time I was here was when (the player) died.”
I have felt that same shudder. How about you? Probably. These kinds of incidents are reported often in conversations with bereaved parents. It’s similar to “where were you when…” – Kennedy was shot, or the planes crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, or you heard about the Tsunami in Thailand or hurricane in … or any other disaster. You remember where you were. Being there brings it all back.
I call these reminders “triggers.” A place can be a trigger and bring back the memory and the sorrow. Many other things can also be triggers, including smells and sounds and seasons and more. If you have experienced these kinds of surprises, you are normal. Being “normal” is important. Among other things it means you are not going crazy. It also means that like most grievers, you can and probably will recover to some sort of normalcy for the remainder of your life.
A triggered surprise of memory can be useful and sweet. Maybe you are remembering a favorite day with the one who died. Maybe you are remembering a hike into the woods on a beautiful spring afternoon, or a cup of hot chocolate on a skiing trip. How sweet are those memories and the time you get to relive that moment. Give thanks for the good memories.
Maybe you are remembering a conflict you had with the person, or an argument, or an unhappy good bye on a particular occasion. It can be useful to take this time to think through what happened at that moment. Reflect on how it fits into the larger context of your whole relationship with your child. You may chose to use this triggered memory to help you resolve in your heart the sorrow you feel for the conflict. Was it really a big deal or was it one of those things that should fit into the category of: “love covers a multitude of sin.” Some things that we fight over truly can and should be allowed to just evaporate in time, rather than have a big talk about them. Or perhaps it was a big deal. Even so, you can decide to forgive them or to be forgiven, receiving from Christ, the forgiveness He offers. Then once you have been forgiven by God, it is all cleansed and no one should hold that against you again.
So triggers come. Allow yourself to be blessed by the pleasant memories. Allow yourself to grow in grace and resolve the unpleasant ones too. As time marches on, use the moments of memory to openly receive the blessings of grace Christ intends to give you. He is your ever-present helper. (Some scriptures used in these thoughts: I Peter 4:8, I John 1:9, Psalm 46:1)