The Unexpected Triggers of Grief

I am lying in bed, stewing…churning…. And whatever other culinary term you wanna throw in there.

Why? An innocent comment. A rather unremarkable statement. Unremarkable because it was neither bad nor good, encouraging nor really discouraging. It was just, odd. But it was pointed at me. A little perplexing because it didn’t make any sense, but still, it was aimed at me.

But why did it bother me so bad? It had the foul scent of an insult, but the substance was absent. I know I generally don’t like displeasing or disappointing people, but this comment was baseless. Inapplicable.

But there I was lying in bed, stewing over it. Tossing and turning, it wouldn’t leave my mind. I kept telling myself to let it go. It really wasn’t a big deal. I reminded myself that I shouldn’t be getting this upset over it.

Then I had a moment of clarity.

A moment of realization.

It wasn’t the comment that truly bothered me. It was the fact that he wasn’t here. As I lay in bed, he wasn’t here to talk through my incredulous thoughts. He wasn’t here to vent my confusion. He wasn’t here to tell me to shake it off, or to validate my own thoughts over the matter. He was my confidant. My best friend. All my thoughts filtered through him.

I was alone. In bed. Stewing.

He wasn’t here.

My logic verified that the comment was minimal. But my emotions argued that the comment was a reminder of being alone without my partner.

There are those moments that amplify your grief. Or your bitterness, anger or whatever else is deep inside. Sometimes they are moments you would least expect. It wasn’t the holidays I just got through that amplified my loneliness, or the fact my birthday was tomorrow which he would miss for the third time. It was simply the fact that I needed to unleash frustration about this comment, right then, and he was the only one I wanted to share it with. He was the only one who would “get it”. He was the only one that could have calmed my soul.

And my best friend wasn’t here.

Photo by Ivan Obolensky on

Sure, I have others to talk to. But they weren’t in bed with me. I have others to call on, but they aren’t my intimate partner. It’s just not the same. And so, this senseless statement by a stranger, erupted a volcano of emotions inside me. But it wasn’t really the statement.

So often, we have symptoms that arise in our lives. Symptoms, whose nerves are attached to a disease, a memory, a struggle, so much deeper than appears. We don’t always give it the attention necessary to realize it. We tend to focus on the symptom and not recognize the underlying cause.

We may know our symptoms. We might be irritable, or depressed, or restless, or angry. And like me, we don’t understand why. Until we look deeper. Although some don’t take the time to look, or refuse to face it.

Grief is sometimes triggered by the most unlikely of culprits. Maybe those culprits catch us off guard because we expect it to be the big things. Maybe they catch us off guard because we think we have moved passed such “insignificant” things affecting us so deeply. But so often, it is the small things. Things most people would only spare a passing glance for, because they seem so insignificant.

Standing in the grocery aisle, realizing you no longer need to buy that deodorant. The printer that won’t work and you can’t call him to fix it. The funny joke that no one would appreciate as much as he would.  When you turn around and there is no one to tell. No one to understand. The tingling sensation creeps further into the chest.

These unwanted triggers are sometimes hard to recognize. We see the frustration at an inanimate object or a random stranger, and chide ourselves for our impatience. But the nerve that is pinched, goes straight to the heart. The nerve we have tried to move past and patch up. But those triggers….. just…. Keep….. pricking.

Photo by Ivan Obolensky on

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