When Grief Resurfaces

It’s really trendy right now to hear about triggers, or trigger warnings. I’m not a psychologist so I won’t go into details of why we have them or what can be a trigger. I can only speak from my own experience. I find it interesting that we need “warnings” because often a trigger is spontaneous and unexpected. And in my own experience, a trigger is UNCONTROLLABLE, meaning we have no idea what is going to trigger, when it’s going to trigger, or how it will come about. An article about a topic, let’s say grief, might come with a trigger warning, and I can read it and not have a harmful reaction. Yet someone else experiencing grief may have a very uncomfortable reaction. It’s completely unpredictable. And like I said, I am not a psychologist, so I’m sure there are many situations where trigger warnings are necessary and effective. In a case where this is not so, I leave you my thought on this … Why are we so afraid to feel our feelings? What are we trying to protect ourselves from? What is the worse that can happen if those feelings potentially resurface?

Recently, deep feelings of grief came up when my cat became sick. She’s 12 years old, and is very special to me. When we were young and not having babies, my husband brought home a kitty who became our first furbaby. Her name is Misha and now she is 13 years old. She has been with us through everything and I can’t imagine life without her. When we had had her for about 1.5 years, we decided she needed a friend. I went to the same cat adoption facility and there was Zoey. The minute I spotted her, laying on a cat that didn’t have ears and giving him a massage while pawing and purring away, I knew she was ours. I went back a second time and she literally picked me. She ran up to me, jumped on my back and ran up my shoulder. That was it, and she came home with me that day. This little spicy orange tabby is my soulmate. She is so friendly and soft and ridiculously cute and I am (most likely unhealthily) attached to her. We’re so close and she often just wants to be held. Honestly, if I had a cat baby carrier, this cat would be happy to be in it all day by my side. Our fur babies are very special to me, as they have been with us through countless moves, ups and downs of trying to grow our family, job loss, intense transitions, and all that life brings. I couldn’t imagine life without them.

We’ve had our fair share of random vet visits and emergency vet scares. But things have been going well with our cats and their health for some time. A few weeks ago Zoey was sneezy and goopy in the corners of her eyes and we thought she might be coming down with something. The next day, all of a sudden, one of her eyes looked really bad. Swollen, the inner lid (3rd eyelid) covering some of her eye, and her pupil just didn’t look right. After taking her in to the vet, to receive a possible diagnosis, she continued to not get any better. Two days later she was even worse, and the next day I took her back to the vet again. At this time, whenever I wasn’t at a class teaching yoga, I was by her side. Chores, cooking, doing other things like this blogging, none of it mattered. I just wanted to comfort her and do what I could to help her feel better.

The next day, things became even worse. She started to walk very wobbly, and wasn’t jumping up on the couch or the bed like a cat normally does. She was falling and seemed very out of balance. I started freaking out big time, and I stayed home with her for the next 24 hours to see if her conditions persisted or if they calmed down. There was talk of possibly needing an MRI to rule out a spinal tumor, and a spinal tap to test her for meningitis.

I was a wreck. Emotions can be exhausting when you really let them course through you and feel what you need to feel. And I was feeling all of it and it was so tiring. I just held her and sobbed. I prayed for her, prayed to all the divine beings I could think of, and to our angel sons, asking for her to receive relief and for her health to improve. I practiced yoga and dedicated the energy of my practice to her healing. I sobbed and prayed some more. I just held her, and didn’t want to let her go. I told her she can’t be sick, she can’t go yet, that it’s too soon and I need her to stay with me for at least a few more years.

The realization that I might have to say goodbye to her was too much. I was worried sick about what was going on with her. We had no concrete answers and that made it even more difficult. All I could do was feel my feelings and process them the way that felt right, and that mostly meant holding my fur baby and sobbing my eyes out.

Those four days were so hard. I was numb. My thoughts were consumed with what was possibly wrong with her, and what I could do about it. I didn’t want to do anything but hold my kitty. I could have cared less about food, about smiling or laughing, and I’m not even sure I cared about showering. This all felt very familiar. This experience, I knew it. It had happened before, and it was being resurrected. Not on the same scale, not to the same degree, but it was all too familiar.

My grief had resurfaced.

I didn’t expect it too, I didn’t ask for it too, and no amount of trigger warnings could have done anything about it. The wave came crashing and all I could do was try to stay afloat and gasp for air every moment I was able to. I tried to do what provided seconds, moments, of relief when I was deeply grieving for our twin sons. It started coming back to me.

It may seem simple, but in those moments where all you can do is cling to survival, here are some practices that may help:

  • drink lots of water

  • pause every so often to take some slow, deep breaths

  • sleep as much as you need to, and nap too

  • if you don’t feel like going out of the house, that’s ok

  • if you do feel like getting out, try going on an easy walk

  • ask for help with whatever you might need

  • if you’re not up to cooking, have dinner delivered

  • journal

  • watch mindless tv

  • read a book

  • take a soothing epsom salt bath with essential oils

  • do some gentle yoga

  • meditate

  • try to stay away from stimulants or depressants (caffeine/alcohol)

  • try CBD if it has helped you (it has definitely helped my anxiety at times)

  • make some soothing herbal tea

  • hit pillows or scream into them

  • jump up and down, run around, and shake it out

  • ground yourself by stepping outside barefoot, feeling the earth, the air around you, and the sun on your face

This is not a cure all, absolute list. Some things may resonate with you, others not at all. Take it at your pace. You might find something else that I didn’t even mention helps, and that is perfect as well.

This is also not specific to just grief. An experience that brings of certain emotions, that can be triggered again, can happen to anyone at any time. Be gentle with yourself. This is part of the human experience and more of more, it’s time we bring awareness to our emotions, honor them, and accept that they support us, help us, and teach us.

I’m curious to know what has helped you regulate and journey through resurfacing grief or other emotions. Let me know so that we can share, for what has helped you at one time is bound to help someone else, and the more we share, the more we support and uplift one another.