October 2, 2021

When birthdays, songs, other things can spark grief long after a loved one’s death

Weeks after my oldest daughter was born, I went on a stroller walk with her around our neighborhood. My mother had died seven years before and my father three years before. So her birth had left me on an emotional high after many years of grieving. At one point on our walk, I heard “honks” of a goose loudly overhead.

My dad loved to hunt geese as much for the ritual of explaining and participating in it with other people. The goose sound I heard immediately conjured an image of him. And I suddenly burst into tears as a familiar sadness filled my body.

What I experienced, experts say, is a grief trigger. Well after the intense grief of an immediate loss has faded, and you think you’ve moved on, something happens out of the blue to revive it.