Maybe finally getting somewhat settled after a tumultuous year. I think I said that before and I thought we had but we’ve made some progress. We lost many loved ones and faced many hardships and great expense with our fur baby’s health issues. It’s like an emotional tornado came through and we are rebuilding the best that we can. I finally picked up Miss Annie’s stuffed toys, her babies as we called them, and put them away. That was difficult for me to do but they were painful reminders as long as they were lying around. It was the next step. The Duchess was bunching them up and laying on them at night. She needed something else to bunch up, so I tossed a blanket on the floor for her. She half-heartedly tries with that but it’s not the same. We’ll work it out.

An important key to healing is to learn how to manage the triggers that cause us pain. They are everywhere, like a mine field.

Putting Annie’s toys away removed a visual trigger. We also avoid audible triggers. The Duchess and the Budster have passed through the grieving process the best that they can but we do not say Annie’s name when they are around. That would reopen a very painful wounds and we won’t do that to them. We can barely say the name even when speaking to each other. It’s still that close to the surface and I am even in tears as I write this. Mumford and Ruger were close in a weird sort of way and we don’t say his name around her. We avoid certain audible triggers. Even when I tell the Budster, “I’ll be right back,” my heart feels the burn of a missing loved one. I used to tell Annie that and she would wait patiently for me to come back. She trusted me. She knew I’d be back because I told her I would. She’s the first one of our pups to learn that ‘be right back’ lesson. I can’t avoid that audible trigger so I learn to deal with it.

A trigger can be associated with any of our senses. A sight, a smell, a sound or a touch. Stimulating any one of these can open the gates of our memories and we will be swept away in the emotional flood.

Grief isn’t the only experience where managing triggers is important. Alcoholics have to manage their triggers if they want to stay dry. Those who smoke need to manage triggers if they ever hope to be successful in quitting and it’s not just the immediately associated trigger, it’s other activities associated with the trigger. Moving forward often requires a lifestyle change. If you always have a cigarette with your morning coffee, you might have to give up coffee to avoid that trigger. You might even have to sit in a different chair than the one you normally would when you drank coffee and smoked. You might have to give up smoking if you want to give up alcohol because those two activities are often related.

Some people replace something they have lost with something else. People who try to quit smoking might chew gum. That never worked for me. Those trying to give up drinking might have to replace their friends or at least get rid of the bad ones. Some people who lose a pet go out and get a new puppy or kitten but a rebound is never a good idea. It takes time to heal and resettle. Substitution is a diversion, not a solution.

In years past, I believed that the cold-turkey approach was the quickest and most efficient, though it also proved to be the most traumatic. Some are built for it, some are not. It might when we have a choice like smoking or drinking but we don’t have a choice when it comes to death. The death of a loved one is thrust upon us whether we like it or not and there is no guidebook that we can follow to get through the process. We are all forced into the traumatic cold-turkey approach.

There are songs that I no longer listen to, there are television shows I don’t watch and there are places I do not go because the memories live there. I have literally burned pictures, video tapes and other items associated with particular memories because the normal methods of dealing with the loss did not work. In short, I had to scorch the earth and move on. I suppose I’ve always had self-destructive tendencies. Some are built for it, some are not. BTW, the scorched earth approach doesn’t work, just in case you are considering such methods.

I was young and now I’m old(er) and I believe that the only way to move on, whatever that means, is with the help of friends who understand and care, friends who will stop us from burning our life to the ground, friends who will help us manage our triggers and hold us in the dark of night.

Thank you for being our friends.

Psalms 56:8
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?

Psalms 30:5
…Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

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About the Author

Joyce Ellis is the CEO and Caretaker of WarmFuzzy's Animal Shelter & Sanctuary. She was born with the vision, the Energizer Bunny who keeps going and going. She is Fuzzy1 of all WarmFuzzy's.

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