In my last post I wrote about how real life doesn’t come with trigger warnings; how different things can sneak up on me and leave me feeling sad or anxious at times I’d prefer not to be. At work, during a meeting, or out with friends. What I didn’t write about is how others can help a bereaved parent, or really anyone who has a life story you don’t fully know, avoid sticky questions or embrace sticky answers. It is simple: consider that what you understand to be an innocuous question may be a loaded question to someone else.
Over the past year or so, I’ve seen my former college and grad school professors, and even some high school teachers, post articles about trigger warnings and over-sensitive students. Most of the articles cite research about young people being too sheltered and protected by their parents, so nothing sad or offensive or challenging or traumatizing ever touches them. These young people then find themselves in higher education unable to engage in conversations on challenging topics—religion, politics, sexual assault, gun violence, etc. Professors have to list “trigger warnings” before bringing up anything potentially distressing to their students, which can end up limiting the education offered.
Hope but not expect is a favorite saying of Nick’s. It drove me nuts when we were first dating. My hopes were almost always met in our early months together, but on the occasion they weren’t Nick would say, Hope but not expect. I’m still not sure I can explain what he means, though I have internalized the general idea of differentiating my hopes and my expectations.
When Sarah and I first lost Rayna, one of the most surprising things was the number of people we knew who had gone through similar losses, and how willing these people were to help. It is like an infant loss club.