When Triggers and Grief Hit...

This week on Instagram Tia and I will be talking about our own experiences with triggers and grief, and how we've managed them both in the moment and afterward.

Let's dive right in.

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I don't believe you can learn to not be triggered or grieve entirely. Mostly, it's because someone will say something you've never heard or been asked before and you'll find little bits of your soul you didn't realize need massaging. In life, there are no guarantees things will go smoothly, we all know that, and yet we keep moving forward. Learning to deal with triggers is the same as learning to deal with infertility: it's a bumpy, ugly road we can make a little nicer by learning really good coping skills.

There are people who get very annoyed by the term trigger. They like to mock people who experience hard emotions or instantly feel sadness or anxiety when a memory, feeling or thought is triggered. The thing is, it's not like you want this to happen. If it were up to the person who was hurt, they would prefer to not be hurt. And so, when people mock those who have these experiences, you can attribute it to their lack of knowledge of the experience. Meaning, they're really fucking lucky they haven't had to hurt like you.

However, we can also overcome some of the knee-jerk reactions that ultimately make us feel bad afterward. I don't know many people who verbally assault someone, meltdown, or do some form of either of those, vomiting their emotions on the offender and feel good about it. Most of us would prefer to not react in the face of someone who is saying something hurtful, whether intentionally or not.

I can't promise you you'll do this perfectly or stop feeling what you do, because that's not true. But I can promise you there are ways to help you begin to react less often and maybe less harshly. I learned about them seven years ago and, for the most part, they've become part of my lifestyle. I still get defensive and can be an asshole occasionally, but it definitely doesn't happen as much as it used to.

Grounding techniques are exactly what you need to learn how to implement when you're on high alert or feel highly reactionary, because it will not only help you in the moment but it will help you cool down afterward.

The point of grounding is to help you stay present and bring you back to the moment without the emotional baggage. They really don't have to be difficult and, ultimately, the hardest part about them is coming prepared for them. I've created a pretty hefty list of exercises for those people attending the Immersion Experience, but I want to give you an example of one of those exercises here, too.

This one is called 5-4-3-2-1 (or something like that...I'm going off memory). It combines the use of your five senses and helps you get back to the present moment.

Step one includes taking a few deep breathes, inhaling through your nose and counting to three, and then exhaling through your mouth for the same count. Once you've done this a few times, you open your eyes and look around you.


Then you'll name:

5 - Things you can see right there (whether they're in your room or outside of the door doesn't matter. Just name five things).

4 - Things you can feel right there.

Ex:

  • The texture of your shirt

  • Your breath on your face

  • Anything you can touch in the room (go do it)

  • Your hair

3 - Things you can hear. 

2 - Things you can smell.

1 - Things you can taste (I always kept a piece of gum or snack around for this, honestly. And when I was super triggered I used something like sour candy - Lemonheads - to help shock me back to the present)


Then take three more deep breathes at the end.
That's it.


At first this might seem like a lot of work, but once you've practiced doing it several times it actually happens very quickly.

The entire point of doing this is to divert your attention from the thing that has caused your emotions to spike so that you can refocus your energy in healthier ways. This one isn't typically used right in the altercation/conversation with the person or event that caused it, but immediately after when you're able to do this without on your own.
These are exercises taught to people with PTSD who need to get their emotions in check, as I did after my abuse convinced me the world was a scary, scary place. Doing the grounding exercises not only helped me diminish the immediate fear I felt, but it also helped me overcome a lot of other complicated emotions, like shame for reacting in a way I ultimately felt was inappropriate.

If you feel your reaction to triggering situations or grief episodes is unhealthy, I'd highly recommend finding a grounding exercise that works for you. It won't solve the issue completely, but it will allow you to look at what happened from an empowered place of logic and you will move through it faster.

This is a process, friends. One that you can absolutely do on your own.

I believe it with all of my heart.