Friday, February 27, 2015

Anger and grief

If you have not yet experienced deep grief this post may be uncomfortable to read. It isn't about you. It is about everything and only one thing.

And let me stress, I still want to hear about you and your life. This post is about something I am dealing with. Please don't think you can't share joy or frustration with me.

*  *  *

There are many frustrating things about Kevin's death. Some are petty, like the household stuff I have to manage on my own; others are much deeper, like my abiding rage that he will never get to grow old, never get to play with grandkids, never get to hold me again.

The anger is pervasive. It touches almost everything. It is about loss and the confused future. It is about not knowing my place in the world anymore. It is about the fact that getting angry at cancer is at once the only thing I can do and the most useless.

Let me stress, I am not angry with Kevin. In no way did he want to get cancer and die. I sometimes feel frustrated that he didn't get diagnosed sooner and have more of a fighting chance, or over some of the choices he made once he was diagnosed, but I hold no anger towards him.

Yet I am angry. 
I am outraged that genetics and bad luck stole him from this world so soon. 
I am aghast that the world continues to turn without him. The sun rose and set with his smile in my world.

How can this be?

It's especially confusing because I am not typically an angry person. Cut me off in traffic and I remind myself that you may be rushing somewhere vital. Yell at me and I imagine water rolling off a duck's back. Anger general isn't a useful emotion for me. But I am angry now.

I get angry at people complaining about relatively minor issues; they have lived long enough to have arthritis or hearing loss or the other things that Kevin never had a chance to face. I take a deep breath and listen with as much compassion as I can, reminding myself that they don't realize how lucky they are that they get to suffer these ills. I bite my tongue and reach for the sympathy I know is inside of me. But I have to reach.

Their pain over various afflictions is no less real than my grief. I need to remember that. And I would never want them to stop expressing their experiences to me, I would never want to be that frail a friend. but I am angry that Kevin is not in this world and cannot experiences the many irritations of being alive.

I get angry when I hear about wonderful things happening that he will never experience. I may feel genuine delight for my friends who have good things happening to them - new work, loves, grandchildren, what have you -  but there is that lurking mist that shades my joy, as I think that Kevin will not have that. I will not have that with him. I bite my tongue and share their joy. It's the only thing to do because any piece of joy in this world should be nurtured and my sorrow isn't useful in this moment. I do not want to become the person who diminishes others joy. But I have to remind myself to reach for the joy.

I am angry.

There are many components to grief that don't get talked about often, I've written about this often enough. Anger is one of them. There is no guidebook telling me how to cope with this simmering rage. There is no toolkit I can use or pill I can take when I castigate myself over and over with If only I had done something sooner. If only I had.... Those voices can only be stilled by time and tears. That anger is the hardest to cope with because there is no balancing sympathy, no mitigating joy. I am angry that the love of my life has died. That doesn't seem unreasonable.

I know, some of you want to tell me that anger is part of the five stages of grief. It isn't that simple. I experience every one of those five stages every day. The anger is fiercesome and futile and unavoidable.

So. Forgive me if I pause a moment before I say something loving and kind. Please understand when it takes me a moment to compose myself before I share your joy. Give me some latitude if I seem short-tempered. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with what I cannot change.

I am angry.

(48 weeks. Oh god.)

Dirge Without Music
Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.  Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone.  They are gone to feed the roses.  Elegant and curled
Is the blossom.  Fragrant is the blossom.  I know.  But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know.  But I do not approve.  And I am not resigned.

(c) 2015 Laura S. Packer

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  1. Let it out Laura, but be very careful on how much you let out at once. I pray you will be able to control the flow of the you know from the one and only time I posted on here, I still have a hard time controlling my anger over the loss of my dear sweet Susan! Grief for me was futile, but anger keeps on raging even so many years later. Warmest Wishes, Frank Russo

    1. Dear Frank, I'm so glad to see you here. Thank you for writing.
      I am trying to be mindful of it. I've had good control over anger for most of my life and this time is no real exception. It's just... you know. The unfairness of it all is monstrous. I'm so sorry for the loss of your Susan.
      Please know I am holding you in my heart. If you want to be in touch don't hesitate to write to me privately. Hugs.

  2. You know I love that poem, I've been thinking about it a lot lately. And it's been reminding me that there is a cruel kind of beauty in anger. I don't know if you're in a place right now where you can step far enough aside to see that, but I've seen you angry, and I promise you, you're as beautiful then as ever. - Love - Adina

  3. "More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world."

    this line slays me.

  4. That poem slayed me.............A perfect ending to a powerful blog entry. I marvel at your truth telling........ You continue to inspire me. Thank You, Chris Jennings


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