Widower Wednesday: Trigger Warnings

Widower Wednesday

Recently on the Dating a Widower Facebook group, there was a thread from a GOW worried how often the W might be forced to think about the late wife. The reason for her concern was that there were people with the same name as the late wife, places, and other things that could trigger a memory of her or their times together. When asked about whether or not it triggered memories of the past, the widower shrugged it off and said it wasn’t a big deal. The GOW wanted to know if he was telling the truth or sparing her feelings.

Here’s my take: Everyone has something that will trigger certain memories or emotions.  A song, for example, might bring back memories from high school, a first kiss or dance, or a vacation. For others a smell might trigger memories of grandmother’s house, a stay in the hospital, or a job. Some of these memories might be good. Other times the memory might be bad. The point is that everyone, including widowers, has them.

There could be 100 different things that set off a memory of time with late wife. But so what? There’s nothing a GOW or WOW can do about memory triggers. They happen whether we want them to or not.

The bigger concern should be how does the widower deal with memory triggers? Unless his loss is recent (18 months or less), most widowers are able to deal with these the same way other people do: they relive the memory for a second or two and then go on with their life. Once or twice a week something might trigger a memory of my past life with the late wife but 99.9 percent of the time no one knows that such an event has ever happened. But nearly 100 times a week I’ll have something trigger a memory about Marathon Girl or my kids.

And that’s the way it should be.

For example last night our five-year-old son came into our room sleep walking. After I put him back in bed, I had a short conversation with Marathon Girl about our oldest kid and how he used to sleep walk and how that freaked us out the first time it happened. One the way home from work I drove past an apartment complex that Marathon Girl and I lived in for a year. That triggered some nice memories. Then at work earlier in the day I overheard a co-worker telling someone else a story about her kids that sent a cascade of memories of my own children through my mind. Nothing happened to trigger a memory of my past life.

So unless triggers put him in a funk or get him talking incessantly about his past, stop worrying about it. Instead work on creating memories with him so that when he hears a song or sees something it reminds him about his new life instead of his old one. The time you spend together, the more triggers you’ll create.