One Difficult Part of Grief: Sitting with Anger

On May 3 , I will be facing the third anniversary of losing my daughter to brain cancer. About a week or so ago, I started feeling ALL of the things I feel this time of year — grief, sadness, longing, disbelieving. But fast forward to today. Today, at this very moment, I feel anger. I feel like If I was confronted by someone right now, that my 5’2′ nonviolent little self might take the person down. I feel like I could run a hundred miles, and the physicality of it still wouldn’t touch the fury. I’m not wallowing self-pity; I’m wallowing in anger that I cannot seem to work through.

My truest belief about grief is that it’s important for me to feel all of the emotions. My ability to feel things is, in my opinion, my super power. I feel comfortable naming a feeling, working through it, and then moving forward. Rinse. Repeat. Over and over until I feel better. Most days, I am rational about what I’m feeling. I understand that life is filled with challenges, and mine are no bigger than anyone else’s. But right now, I can’t get a grip on feeling furious at the world. I don’t like this feeling, but I also believe that anger is a part of the grief process. It’s normal, but it’s just not where I want to land.

Right now my anger is directed at trivial things at work, imperfect relationships, and my own mistakes and imperfections. Yet, I know that this anger stems from one thing — not the little irritations in my life, but my grief in losing my daughter at a much too young age. Fifteen year olds should not die before their parents, and fifteen year olds should not have to battle an aggressive cancer like glioblastoma.

Where does this leave me? I’m not sure. I generally try to be optimistic in the face of challenges. I try to be hopeful, even in times of despair. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out how to stop feeling mad. Tonight I went for a walk with a friend. I wrote. I read a book. In my mind, I screamed at the universe. The rage persists. The rage is just not me.

Is there an easy way to rid myself of anger?  I don’t think so.  I am confident that the only way through my anger is through it.  I have to ride it out, recognize what I’m dealing with,wrestle with it a bit, and know that tomorrow will be a better day.  But out of all of the emotions driven by grief, anger is the hardest for me to sit with.  The challenge for me is to not let this anger consume me — to continue to work to be a good wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, teacher and human.  I believe Brene Brown when she says this:  “Anger is a catalyst. Holding on to it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalizing anger will take away our joy and spirit; externalizing anger will make us less effective in our attempts to create change and forge connection.”   I have to find a way to let my anger lead me back to joy and gratitude. 

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