The day my husband died I was immediately angry. I paced around my porch burning holes in the floor talking to myself and to him. "I just seen you two hours ago. I told you we would talk about what was bothering you when I get home. I told you to take the dog for a walk. What the hell happened? What did you do?" I repeated this over and over and over. My brain was on misfire. My soul was screaming. I was in complete shock. Shock got me through my first days after he died. I stood at his wake and his funeral like a big pile of mush. People would say to me, "I am so sorry that he died. I am so sorry that he left you." I felt almost nothing at their words. It didn't make me angry and I only felt an overwhelming and almost blinding compassion for my husband. I felt like I was underwater and all I could think was, "I can't believe he's not here to raise our kids with me. We were supposed to go to dinner on Saturday night. I can't believe he hurt himself."
The days passed. The casseroles stopped coming. Visitors went back to their lives. My posts to him on social media at 11:00pm on a Tuesday night screaming out in pain started to get no response because people just didn't know what to say anymore. I get it. It's too much. It's overwhelming. You turn away and go back to your life because the pain is too extreme.
But the pain only grew inside of my house. The pain grew into anger. I have been mad before in my life. Anger is different. A different level. I could feel it humming just beneath my skin. I could feel it oozing from my thoughts down into my heart and just sitting there to boil.
What is anger? Is it being mean? No. Is it lashing out? No. Only once did I raise my voice at anyone and I remember it well. My husband was dead. My children were tired and hungry and my limits were being tested. I was in my kitchen being told by family what I had to do with my life because Ryan would want me to. I would nod and hold my breathe. Then they would tell me something else I would have to do to continue what Ryan would want for his life. I felt that anger ooze up onto my tongue and I couldn't swallow it. Only that once my anger turned into aggression. What is aggression? It is what we do with our anger. I could hear myself say that I did not have to follow what Ryan wanted for his life because his life wasn't my life. I could hear myself say that he had died and he would want me to do whatever I needed to do with my life to protect and care for myself and our children. These words were not taken well. I didn't mean to be hurtful but my threshold for withstanding pain had met it's limit. My boundaries had been crossed. My boundaries were crossed and trampled and set on fire the day my husband died and in this conversation alone my boundaries were broken down over and over and over. It was after this that I figured out how to keep some of my feelings to myself but yet to stand up for myself if my personal boundaries were being crossed. Did this equate to me being mean? No. I was only protecting my heart. I was only protecting myself from digging a hole and jumping into it....forever.
Anger. Anger is just another human emotion. When we are grieving it is very possible that yes, we are going to be mad. We lost someone we loved. They were ripped from our lives. Quite possibly if they died suddenly, tragically, or by suicide.....they never said goodbye or I'm sorry. We have lost our self-worth, various roles in our lives like being someone's wife, and our entire lives are in shambles. Our boundaries have been crossed and this can make us feel anger. Anger is just another human emotion that is valid and that we have a complete right to just like happiness or sadness. Anger can be brought on by fear. Mix my husband dying with my fear of living alone, top it off with some depression and our children screaming out for him every night at 1:00am and you just might get a big of anger. Who was I angry at? Him, me, everyone, the world and no one in particular. I was just angry. Angry that this happened to my husband. Angry that he left without a goodbye. Angry that our babies had to be in such horrible emotional pain. Angry that the life that I had was gone. Did I ever lash out at anyone? No. Did I ever yell at anyone? No. Did I scream into my pillow? Yes. Did I write down my anger and talk to my ghost of a husband about why I was mad as hell that he was dead? Yes. I intuitively knew that I had to get those feelings of anger out of my soul, my mind, my body. Lock it up. Pretend everything is fine. Pretend you're not angry and that anger will ooze through you and probably make you sick. Probably take years off your life. Probably make it hard for you to find the sunshine ever again.
I learned to be able to feel when my anger was coming on. It would overtake my thoughts and make me feel anxious, sweaty, sick, and tired. What would I do? Retreat to my home. Cozy up and write. Go hiking with my kids. Avoid certain people and certain social situations that I knew were only going to trigger my emotions. And I was always honest about it. I talked about it if someone asked. "Are you mad that Ryan's dead?" Yes, Yes I'm mad. Yes, I can hear him telling me...."It's ok to be mad, Nik. I would be so angry if you left me here on this earth without a hug or a goodbye. Without a note to tell me you loved me. Without a list to tell me how to take care of our children, what their favorite books are, what do they like to eat for lunch? You have every right to be mad, Nik. Don't let them tell you otherwise. Be mad. Stand on a bluff and yell. Break glass. Get that shit out of your heart so you can move forward into the beautiful life that you deserve. Listen to me my wife. I know things on this side of the fog that you can't understand. It's ok to be angry. It's apart of losing someone you love."
So to you.....the griever who is feeling guilty that they are angry. To the griever that is being told that their anger is not valid. To the griever who is hiding their anger and bottling is up. To you I say this......it's ok. It's ok to be mad that your person isn't here anymore. Of course you're mad. It's never ok to be mean or say words to someone that can't be taken back but if you feel like standing alone in your garage and breaking a glass like I did? Go for it. Let that anger out. Meditate. Exercise. Write in a journal. Talk with a friend that you can trust 100% with your feelings. Stand on a bluff or a mountain or a hill and scream until you lay down to take a nap. The anger will pass. It's been almost two years since my husband died and I rarely feel angry anymore. I can't remember the last time I felt angry. Yes, I'm still mad that this happened but I have come to a level of acceptance. The anger that was oozing beneath my skin has melted. I allowed myself to feel it, to learn from it, to listen to it, to let it be what it was for awhile and then? And then it left and I was able to feel more joy, more happiness, more gratitude, and more empathy for myself and others.
Anger and grief often are good friends. Grief will make you sometimes feel like a jerk....even if it's only in your own mind. It's ok. Your boundaries were crossed. Your pain cup runneth over. Get mad. Sweat it out and then move forward into your beautiful future.