This title is a bit misleading. This isn’t a blog about rainbows, or even The Muppets. This is a blog about how triggers send us down a road we’d rather not travel on.
Everyone has a trigger when it comes to grief. For some it may be a word, an event, an action taken by someone else, a smell, or even a song. My grandma passed away from cancer ten years and one month after my brother. My grandma was amazing. She never said anything mean about any one, was always willing to watch “The King and I” for the 10th time that day, and acted like I was her only focus when I was near her. I am the only girl on that side of the family and she definitely loved her only granddaughter. She wore a perfume by Clinique and 14 years later I still get an intense desire to call her if I smell it. When we were packing up her belongings after she passed, I found an old handkerchief of hers and sprayed it with the perfume. I like to believe that there’s still a slight sent left on the cloth.
Around the end of Andrew’s life, my dad began listening to a folk singer called John Gorka. For some reason, I equate him with my brother. My cousin Joe, who was also my brother’s best friend, seems to have a similar connection. John has a song, “If I Could Forget to Breathe” that I connect with Andrew. I just looked up the album the song appeared on. It was actually released in 1992, the year my brother passed away, and is called, “Temporary Road.” Pretty fitting actually.
Up until rather recently, if I wanted to feel the weight of losing my brother I would listen to this song on repeat. I’m listening as I type. It isn’t as heavy as it once was. What was it about this song that connected Andrew to me? As I look at the lyrics and listen to the song the only thing I can point to is the title, simple guitar instrumentals, John’s voice, and perhaps a memory that I have forgotten but the association remains.
Recently a friend who has also experienced a significant loss in her life had a trigger. It got me thinking. What was my last big trigger? Has the distance of time really shut off that emotional stream? I’m happy the experience isn’t so raw but now I’m faced with a new grief path: clinging to the memory.
I used to pray to God that I’d have a dream about Andrew. This prayer hasn’t surfaced lately. Do I just not believe that I’ll see Andrew? Do I think the age difference of him in my dream vs what his age would be now are too vast to be reconciled in my dream world? Have I forgotten how important that visual was to me? Have I grown up? Do I not need him as much?
At one point after college, I was dealing with the separation anxiety that I’ve written about previously. Someone was praying with me and talking me through the emotions hitting me. They played the song “Songbird,” by Eva Cassidy. Lately I’ve been reminded of that song every time I feel that trigger being pulled and my imagination starts to get out of control.
Just about the time that I began to consider the last trigger I’d had, I had one. Friends of our family where throwing a surprise birthday party for their mom. The mom has three kids and they’d all pitched in to surprise her. Pity set in and I started to think about how I’d be able to do something like that for my parents. I wouldn’t have anyone to help me. I’ve had that experience ripped away from me. Now, granted, that’s not the end of the world but my anger about the new reality upset me. The issue stood in for a bigger issue: I should’ve had that sibling around and now I don’t. There’s the trigger that never goes away.