“A trigger in psychology is a stimulus such as a smell, sound or sight that triggers feelings of trauma.”
I folded the clothes neatly into a pile and placed them into the bag ready to go to the charity shop. Some of the jumpers were nearly new and had only been worn a handful of times. The last time they had been worn, Evalyn had been kicking beneath the cottons inside of my tummy. Now these items just served as a reminder of her and despite now being short of a whole Autumn wardrobe, I knew that I could never wear them again.
They are everywhere after loss. They are also hard to escape from as even you may not neccessarily be aware of what they are until life abruptly lays them down on the path in front of you. In ten months, I have encountered many triggers that have brought about what I like to call an Evalyn Episode (be it a flashback, an anxiety attack or just a good old emotional breakdown). Some are, of course, expected. Others not so much . . .
This is a pretty obvious one. If your baby dies the last thing you want to be faced with is the sight of a mother with her precious baby. But for me, the sight of a newborn is not neccessarily what causes a trigger. If I am out in public, I can avert my eyes when a pram approaches. I can turn away and pretend that I can ignore the new parent happiness before me.
But I can’t ignore the sound of a newborn’s cries.
The sound of a baby crying crushes me. Maybe it is because I automatically want to comfort that baby in a way I never got to comfort Evalyn? Maybe it is an awful reminder that unlike that baby, Evalyn was silent. Evalyn never had a voice.
There have been times when I have had to discreetly leave a room at the sound of a baby crying. There have been times when I have had to leave a queue and a full shopping trolley behind just to get away. There have been times when I have just had to stop what I’m doing, get in my car and drive home to the silence. There have been times when I haven’t been able to meet my friends newborns as I can’t guarantee I won’t have a full blown breakdown at the sight or sound of them. The fact that I am still yet to meet some of my friend’s babies due to my own grief and triggers breaks my heart.
Pregnancy and Birth Announcements
“We are happy to announce the safe arrival of . . . . ” are literally the hardest words for a loss parent to hear. Of course, I am happy that these words mean that someone hasn’t had to go through the pain that we have had to endure. But these words remind me of my own announcement of, “I really don’t know how to say this but . .”
And those are the saddest words to hear in your mind on repeat.
When I was pregnant with Evalyn, I suffered with sickness for the whole nine months. I think the longest I went without a face to face meeting with a toilet bowl was about three days. And for some reason, anything containing too much sugar made it worse – and for someone who enjoys a bar of chocolate or a slice of cake every so often, this was hard to accept. But dark chocolate was something that Evalyn didn’t mind me eating. As long as I didn’t have too much, I was still able to get my chocolate fix which resulted in months of eating dark chocolate only. . . .
I haven’t been able to bring myself to eat it since.
It sounds like a strange one, I know. But I felt like I was doing alright this year. I was taking each day and week as it came. I’d sail through the good days and struggle through the bad days but I was ok. I was doing ok.
But now Autumn has started to show it’s first signs and along with them, I have been inundated with constant Evalyn reminders. Because this time last year was the home stretch. This time last year, Ieuan started school and I told myself that it wouldn’t be long until his little sibling was here. Autumn was our finishing line to completing our family.
“The baby will be here in the Autumn,” I’d told Ieuan, “First Halloween, then Bonfire Night and then the baby will be here.”
But now it’s Autumn and I’m reminded of this on a daily basis as now it is the countdown until Evalyn’s first birthday when life will remind me that a whole year has passed by, yet for me, it barely feels like a day.
It was this hour in the morning when I woke up and knew Evalyn was gone. Waking up at 4am can either make my day or break it. Because when I wake in the night, look over at my clock and see this time displayed in neon red, my heart sinks and my mind starts thinking.
4am in the darkness with your own thoughts is a scary place to be.
It’s not James Arthur’s fault, but I can’t listen to his song Say You Won’t Let Go without feeling that burning sensation at the back of my throat and the heat behind my eyelids as the tears start to form.
This was the first song I heard when we left the hospital. It was playing on the radio on our drive home and apart from True Colours from the Trolls soundtrack which we played at Evalyn’s funeral, this will always be the saddest song I have ever heard.
These are only a handful of triggers, of course. After loss, the list of things in life that are there to remind you are endless. I sometimes feel that I am at war with my own life, constantly trying to dodge these little trigger bullets that come my way. Some can be avoided, some come back around for a second try. Like the time I managed to avoid the “Baby Sale” aisle at the supermarket only for my favourite James Arthur song to play over the sound system as I rounded the corner. Or the time I was at soft play with Ieuan and was perfectly fine until the woman in front of me started plaiting her daughter’s hair. My brain used that moment to remind me that I will never get the chance to make Evalyn’s hair look pretty and the tears began to fall. Believe me, trying to explain to another mum that I am crying because she is plaiting her daughter’s hair has not been one of my finest moments.
But these moments are going to happen and they will probably happen for the rest of my life. They will be there to remind me when Evalyn should be starting school or having her 13th birthday and her first teenage strops. I will watch friend’s daughters on their wedding day and picture Evalyn and how beautiful she would have looked on hers.
I’m not sure yet if there is a way to beat the triggers or if trying to embrace them is the only real way of overcoming them. I think, like grief, I need to tackle them head on.
I know I won’t win every battle. But life isn’t about winning every battle. It’s about accepting the challenge and finding a way to become a better person with what you learn from it. And I have alot to learn.
But I’m trying.
For the sake of my sanity and the possibilty of happier days ahead, I really am.