If something brings up a memories related to loss, we call them grief triggers. These grief triggers may be anything from birthdays to holidays to a particular smell you remember from your loved one’s house. Grief Triggers can cause full-blown emotional ricochet, or they may just leave you feeling sort of off or sad.

Whenever your grief is triggered, it can open your mind to something called involuntary autobiographical memory.

“Involuntary autobiographical memory” describes any memory of your life that you recall without trying. They aren’t entirely random, but we may be unaware of what’s triggered them. The memories themselves are usually related to powerful emotions. Strong emotions interrupt your train of thought, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively.

Why is grief a long-term deal?

One of the most common questions people have about grief is, “How long will this last?” We grieve because, as humans, we naturally develop attachments and love for our family, environment, pets, and so on into forever. When we lose a pet or a job or a relationship, the attachment doesn’t necessarily go away. Over time, we can learn to cope with loss and sadness, but grief and longing can last much longer.

Getting beyond the intense grief, that we experience after initially suffering a loss, takes time. It does get better. But as long as your love for someone is within you, the potential to grieve them lives on as well. We call this prolonged grief or complicated grief.

What is complicated grief?

Grief has no timeline and happens differently for each individual. A normal grieving period changes depending on who’s experiencing it. A lack of change marks prolonged, or complicated grief. Symptoms specific to complicated grief are:

  • Inability to function at home or work
  • Distancing or isolating yourself from relationships
  • Longing for who or what was lost
  • Obsessing over the loss.

Besides these symptoms, complicated grief also presents with symptoms of initial, intense grief persists. If someone has a history of anxiety and depression, they are at a higher risk of prolonged grief. We have also noted that if the loss is particularly violent or abrupt, a person is more likely to experience complicated grief.

How to deal with grief and grief triggers

Effective grief treatment can involve several factors like medication, psychotherapy, and group therapy. Coping with grief differs from person to person, but here are some proven strategies:

Take care of yourself

Self-care is more important than ever when you’re grieving. Maintaining a healthy eating schedule and drinking plenty of water is necessary to give your body the fuel it needs to power through the emotional rollercoaster. Regular hygiene and gentle daily movement help your brain process your emotions more effectively.

Ask for help

It’s okay to grieve, and it’s okay to grieve for a long time. It’s also okay to re-experience grief after feeling as though you’ve conquered it. The people who love you will want to support you through this. Asking for help is an essential part of grief recovery. Relying on friends and family members or others who have experienced a similar loss has proven to be a powerful healing tool for people experiencing grief.

Talk to a professional

When the help of close family and friends feels like it’s falling short, that’s okay too. You can seek the help of a professional grief counselor. They have the tools and understanding to help you find the best way for you to cope. Those suffering from grief sometimes feel that they are an inconvenience or have feelings of shame associated with going to therapy. Understand that this is why therapists educate themselves on how to help clients through grief. We are here to help.

If you feel you could use help processing loss, please read more about grief counseling and feel free to contact us to schedule a consultation.