Trigger warning. I never knew how much I would hate this term until after Colette died. It feels like every time I speak about her or parenting after loss or anything else, there always has to be a qualifier, a reason to highlight and say, “This is not normal, this is something we cannot accept.” Friends who are also loss parents and I have discussed this at length, with some of us making clear moves to avoid groups or situations that always have to put that asterisk by our story, to single out that our angels are not treated the same as our living children.

Woman staring at laptop screen - Parenting After Loss: Where is my trigger warning?

Shutterstock/shurkin_son

The trigger warning, while I understand it intellectually, feels like the equivalent of how most loss parents have felt at one time or another when we have walked into a room that goes silent, gotten the look of pity, the look of disgust over us talking about our babies who are gone long after they leave, or caused someone to stumble and trip over their words. It reaffirms the view that it feels like the rest of the world has—your baby died, but it was not really a baby, and we really do not want you to talk about it anymore.

The dislike of trigger warnings has grown over time.

I hate when I write an article or appear on a podcast or post something on social media and outside sources put that restriction on me. My child is not an asterisk, the death of my child does not put me into a category of “other,” or “this is different.” Sweet Pea and Colette are still my children and will be forever. Their deaths did not remove them as such, and I am tired of having to pretend like it is okay for them to be labeled any differently than my living child.

It is particularly frustrating because you only see this when it comes to baby loss. If I wrote about my grandmother who died, it is unlikely that anyone would think to place a trigger warning or disclaimer. Yet, if I talk about my children who died, all of a sudden, it is unacceptable.

Last week, I was reading a post on a professional mom site, and the poster spoke about how she had a 7-month-old at home and had gotten pregnant again by accident, asking about what she should do when it came to her employer and career. I toiled over the post, wanting to write something about how she should have more concern for those of us whose pregnancy did not come easy or those of us who could not begin to imagine a plan for after our baby was here because of the effects of loss. Each time, I started to write something, I erased it, thinking this was just going to come off as me being a bitch. I went back to the post multiple times and yet never felt like I could say anything. The reason behind my thoughts was that when we have glorified pregnancy as this happy, ethereal experience, anyone who comes along to say, hey, perhaps it was that way for you, but it was not for me is almost immediately shunned.

My thoughts over this post have really consumed me because I just wanted to know, where is my trigger warning?

If the prevailing thought over labeling my story and my children with a trigger or disclaimer is based on possibly causing pain and hurt to those consuming it, then where was the trigger that could cause me or those with similar backgrounds pain and hurt?

When we struggled with infertility, it felt like everyone around us was pregnant, and yet, I was expected to take news of pregnancies with a joyful smile and congrats. Sure, friends who were close enough took time to tell me, but scrolling through Facebook or Instagram proved to be a pain that could not be soothed. If I wrote my story of going through fertility treatments or the pain of every month when the test was negative, there was an expectation that I was coddling those reading. Yet, no one would have thought to post a trigger warning for their pregnancy, even though I was super triggered during those times, especially when we had not yet brought a child home and, more often than not, they were talking about bringing home their second, third, or even fourth plus child. If I had suggested such a warning, I would have been scorned and labeled as overly sensitive and rude, making it about me, and so on.

As a loss mom who still struggles with triggers around those who bring home healthy babies, especially when it is not their first child, who struggles with not getting to be a girl mom in the way she expected, and more, there are so many times when I want to scream, where is the warning that benefits me? Where is the warning that says this person being pregnant quickly may be a really tough pill to swallow? Where is the warning that says this family having two daughters, the picture of the family you had always envisioned, may feel like a gut punch? Where is the warning when we see pictures of kids the same age that our angels would be, and we spiral into wondering, what if?

I adamantly believe that my story and my children do not necessitate a trigger warning or disclaimer, but if it is insisted upon, then it needs to be equitable.

Incidents of loss are too common for us to single them out as odd or strange while also refusing to accommodate the feelings of those who are living after loss. If we truly want to change the narrative to talk more openly and honestly about pregnancy, about loss, and about life after loss, then we need to do better.

More on this topic:

Share this story!