• Catherine Tidd

Year 15 and The Widda Trigger I Didn't See Coming




Fifteen years into widowhood I did not see this one coming.


We all have these trigger moments, but as you get further into widowhood, they come further and further apart. The first year? You're triggered every time you go to the grocery store (or wake up in the morning). By year five, it's a mannerism one of your kids has that you just noticed reminds you of your spouse or you sell the last car you bought together. Year 15, you're pretty much sailing through, thinking of your spouse every day, but not in a way that brings you to your knees.


Until it does.


My daughter just got a new job lifeguarding at the gym I belonged to for years. I'm not kidding when I say that gym probably saved my life (and the lives of my children) the first five years after Brad died; I was there ALL THE TIME. Between my anger, sadness, and the state-of-the-art childcare center they had it became my happy place. Or at least my coping place.


I haven't set foot in that gym (or almost any other gym - HA!) in at least eight years. Until last week.


Being a minor, my daughter needed me to sign a waiver for her to have a membership to the gym as one of the perks of being an employee. We were coming from two different directions so we decided to meet there. I got there before her and walked into the lobby.


And immediately felt...something.


Nauseous. Weepy. Pent up. It was visceral. If you've ever read the book "The Body Keeps the Score" about our physical reactions to trauma...this was a textbook case. I was literally having flashbacks to bringing my three small children there. Changing them in the family dressing room to go to the pool. Bringing them to the childcare center so I could work out my aggression in the gym. I was right back in that place.


My body felt the misery down at a cellular level. I wanted out.


Was this a good thing????


I had a therapy appointment today and started it out by saying, "Something happened last week" and began crying so hard I could barely speak.


As I explained what happened, my therapist sat up and said, "You went back in time."


My God, that WAS what it was like and that made me cry even harder. That I felt that pure misery for so long all those years ago is unfathomable to me - but that's what it was. How could anyone live like that? How in the hell did I get through that???


Once again, I felt like I was looking at my past as if it wasn't mine. I was seeing those flashbacks as if they were scenes from someone else's life. And, again, I felt so much compassion for that woman. She was living her life every day in a way that I can't even imagine getting through now. She was getting up. She was feeding her family. She was packing everyone up to get to the gym so she could have a moment to herself. It was so much damn work for anyone, let alone someone who had lost so much.


How was this even possible?


My therapist encouraged me to reframe this. "You're so triggered because you've come so far," she said. "That's the GOOD thing about this. You're not that person anymore. That's why this is so painful."


I'm hoping I can fully absorb that outlook at some point. Right now I'm just so damn sad for that woman at the gym.







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