Lately, many people want to tell me about, show me pictures of and/or talk about their wonderful, adorable grandchildren. I sit there, on the verge of a primal scream, as they whip out their phones or devices and start scrolling for pictures, all the while rhapsodizing about their unbelievably cute grandkids.
At this point in my life, most people I know are grandparents, so, even though it’s perfectly natural for them to talk about their grandkids, it pushes buttons and triggers emotions in me. If a friend describes a cozy evening by the fire reading to her grandkids or tells me about a recent trip to Disneyland with them, it’s hard for me not to feel bereft and cheated. I want to take trips with my grandchildren, (although, I could definitely pass on Disneyland), I want to laugh with them and hold them close. I want to know them.
It’s unreasonable to expect my friends and family to not talk about their grandchildren and it’s more loving on my part to listen to them and share their joy. That said, I have, in certain cases, stated that I’m very happy for them and want to hear about their grandkids, see pictures, etc, but ask that they keep it short and sweet, hoping they will understand that it’s difficult for me because I am reminded of what I’m missing.
There are many emotional triggers. Sometimes I’ll get tactile flashbacks of my grandkids and remember what it felt like to tickle their tummies or to hold a small hand while taking a walk to the park. The sound of rain can trigger a memory of my little grandson running outside during a storm, excited to be splashing around in his colorful new raincoat and rubber boots. I hear music that we danced to or come across books I bought for them and read to them, and I feel a pang of sadness. But, though these memories are bittersweet, I am nevertheless grateful that I had that precious time with them.
Recognizing that there are situations, places, people and things that can trigger an emotional response or memory is important. When I feel myself reacting and sliding into the abyss of anger, hurt, fear, etc, I switch my thoughts and identify what is triggering me. I take a deep breath and come back to the present moment. I acknowledge the feelings and remind myself that I did everything I could, that this alienation was not my doing and that things could change for the better. So, I then relax, breathe and do my best to enjoy what is before me. I can manage my thoughts and emotions by choosing to be kind, gentle and loving to myself.
I have no control over anyone and I only hurt myself when I argue with or refuse to accept the reality of the estrangement I have to live with. Everything changes, and I pray for a miracle of healing one day, but I must accept the way it is now.
It helps, when dealing with emotional triggers, to be grateful for the evanescence of the moment at hand. I continue to practice mindfulness, enjoying the little things, like a good cuppa joe or watching a goldfinch perched on a branch outside my kitchen window. And, everyday, I give thanks for the big things which, too often, I take for granted, like having eyes that see, hands that touch and a heart that keeps on beating.