Using anger instead of grief
I remember feeling angry soon after I lost my father. But why? I have asked myself this question many times in my life, usually after someone I cared for passed away. Here are a few things I’ve learned on my journey of self-discovery.
Sooner or later everyone leaves – or dies.
This is one of the truths we all have to come to terms with. We will lose people throughout our lives. Some of these losses will make us sad and angry, while others will not. I had to ask myself why this is true and I learned that it has a lot to do with our relationships with the person we lost.
When my father died, at first I was very sad, but then I got angry. How could he abandon us? How could he just give up fighting and die? Why wasn’t he treated sooner? Why? Why? WHY? This was the most difficult moment for me regarding this situation. I was newly married and had a mother and four younger sisters who depended on me for help. I soon began to see that my questions were somewhat irrational. After all, Dad didn’t make the choice to die and leave his family, did he?
I realized I was angry because he left me to fend for myself with my siblings and my mother and he wouldn’t be there for me! Yes, I was angry at our selfishness. Dad left me to fend for myself all through life. Without his help, guidance and understanding. I was downright angry, angry at GOD. It just wasn’t fair!
But the anger soon left me as life moved on and it wasn’t until I lost my husband a few years later that this terrible anger resurfaced. I quickly recognized the symptoms. Feeling abandoned, losing support and love from the person I planned to spend the rest of my life with. Being forced into single motherhood and more. This time I was angry with my husband. Why did he refuse to go to the doctor even after we asked him to go. This was one instance where it would take a long time for us to stop blaming and forgive him for leaving us alone.
After a while, I remarried, but this marriage also ended in loss. Another kind of loss. This time it was the loss of a dream. All I really wanted back then was to be a wife and mother. Oh, I know that sounds corny now, but it’s the truth. This time my marriage was stolen by alcoholism. It came in, grabbed my husband and destroyed our lives. I never thought I would ever be able to get a divorce, but the abuse of alcohol and the violence that came with it changed my views.
My anger at losing my self-respect by allowing myself to become an abused husband was exhausting. But eventually I forgave myself for being so weak and vowed never to lose that part of me again, and I never have. One more try. I remarried a few years later and this time everything seemed to fall into place until…
Cancer took my husband and left me with a thirteen month old son and three other children. Angry is probably not the best word. I guess you could say I was mad at God for doing this to me again. How could he leave me like this? What about my children? But, again, over time I learned something. I was reminded of my selfishness again. It was one evening when my son told me that he felt sad that his stepfather had died because now he couldn’t take him fishing. Speak from the lips of babes!
It was the slap I needed. Nobody, Lord, has done anything to me. It’s just my husband’s time. The cycle of his life was over. It wasn’t a deliberate attempt to hurt or destroy me. And I don’t believe it’s a test. It just was what it was.
Since then I have suffered more losses of family and friends. But now I see that anger, whether short-lived or long-lasting, is really just a natural reaction to having something taken from you. A reaction to feelings of being out of control, of missing something you valued in your life.
No one knows what happens when we die. We have beliefs, of course, but as far as I know, no one really KNOWS. With this uncertainty comes fear, and in fear we find a reaction like anger. Yes, anger can be the result of fear. It’s the stuff that pumps adrenaline into your bloodstream and prepares you for fight or flight.
But fear can also teach us. If you are feeling angry after the loss of a loved one, don’t feel ashamed or alone. It is one of the natural progressions through the cycle of grief, just as death is the natural progression of the cycle of life. Look deep into your anger and see if you might just not be afraid to live without…
Eventually the anger will go away and be replaced by bitter memories… Really! I know, been there, done that.