Grief Triggers (Warning: Sensitive Images for Bereaved Parents)

Triggers can be anything that make you think about your loss, struggle and grief. I have had all kinds of triggers since Zachary died and I can guess that many others have experienced these as well:

  • The expiration date on food.
  • The sound of your baby’s name.
  • The hospital.
  • The route to the hospital.
  • Anniversaries.
  • Babies in general.

While triggers can cause our emotions to flare, I try to think about my child in those moments. In that way, triggers can be a lovely opportunity for remembrance.

The challenge is when these triggers startle us so badly that we cannot cope in the moment. In those cases, the best plan is to remove ourselves from those situations and find a safe place to sit and take a few long, calming breaths.

I had an over-the-top trigger experience earlier this month at The 19 Biennial International Perinatal Bereavement Conference where I was presenting a workshop on healing. One afternoon I was walking through the exhibitor area where there were authors with their books, crafts people with remembrance objects and support services. I came to one woman’s table and then BAM! MAJOR TRIGGER!

She had rubber babies curled in the fetal position. They were all nude. Some were white, some were black. They were displayed in order from early conception to forty weeks gestation.


I found myself both drawn and repelled to these little rubber babies. I cannot tell you exactly why. Slowly, carefully, I picked up the baby that was thirty weeks gestation. That was how far along I was when I delivered Zachary. The rubber baby was so small in comparison to my memory of my son. Zachary’s heart was failing and fluid had accumulated throughout his tiny body. He weighted over seven pounds.

I was surprised that when I picked up the rubber baby, its head flopped back and I found myself supporting it and holding the synthetic material as if it was an actual infant. This unnerved me, along with a little basket of tiny babies for sale at $5. Part of me wanted to buy every rubber baby and another part, as I stood there crying, told me to, “FLEE! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!”

rubber babies for sale bereavement baby loss alexis marie chute wanted chosen planned

I write about this humorously now, but at the time I was bombarded with the sensory experience when Zachary died and also the tangible, physical absence of him as a baby.

Not far from that exhibitor’s table was small baby-sized caskets. Zachary was cremated, but just the site of the little wooden boxes was another trigger for me and I left the exhibit hall at that point to collect myself in my hotel room.

baby loss casket wanted chosen planned alexis marie chute artist writer photographer

I find it interesting that I am still triggered after four years. I bet this is a part of grief that lingers on. What do you think? What is your experience of triggers? How do you cope?

Triggers are a part of grief. If you feel you cannot recover after being triggered, call someone who can help. Get in touch with a friend or family member, your local hospital or a support line. Talking with someone you trust about what triggers you and how you can cope trust will be a tremendous help.

When a trigger hits, remember: you can get through it. You are strong and brave. The moment will pass. I wish you resiliency as you face each and every new day.

Grace and love.   


  1. DONNA
    Jul 27, 2017

    I am looking for something a father wrote about the death of his sone and cannot find it. Maybe someone has heard of it. TRIGGERS THAT CALL THEIR NAME (NAMES).

    • Alexis Marie Chute
      Sep 30, 2017

      Hi Donna,
      Thank you for your comment. I am not sure where to find what you are looking for, but I will think on it and let you know if I come up with anything.
      Sending you hugs,
      – Alexis Marie

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