Anger comes in many forms to the griever as you will see by the different responses that came in this week. For many of us, anger is one of the emotions that is hardest to tolerate. It sneaks up on us and all of a sudden it can be consuming. The choice is to let it sink you into a deep hole or to grab it and use it to make you stronger. One thing that is usually helpful is to tell a non-judgmental friend about it and that is what we did this week. Once it is out in the open either in print or through talking, it doesn’t seem so daunting. The writings that are published here are the ones that also had strategies on how to cope. Please feel free to use any of the strategies keeping in mind that these did not come from counselors, but people like you and I who have suffered a loss and are traveling this path. Sometimes this emotion can make the griever feel isolated, but when we share our stories at TAPS, we are never alone. Thanks to all who contributed this week. Together we can stand up to anger.
Next week’s question came from one asked at the TAPS National Seminar over Memorial Day. It is: How do I let the other significant loved ones in my life know that I love them while I am grieving? To respond, email Carol.Lane@taps.org. I look forward to reading the responses to this.
My wife has gotten tired of hearing how strong she is. My kids have become fed up with hearing, "I'm sorry for your loss", as this just churns feelings that they would like to suppress sometimes so they can process them as they'd like. Me? I'm forgotten. I'm the "Step Father". Any one that writes a letter to the family addresses it to his birth father or his mom, my wife. I was called "Dad" by him for 13 years. No, it wasn't a "flawless" relationship by any means. Show me one that is. I led him to Christ at the age of 8-1/2. I coached him in football. I drove him to practice. Helped with his feather bustles for Native American Pow Wow dance completion. I tried to teach him about finances; helped him get his first car, he owned it less than 6 months before he was killed; bought him his first "legal" beer. Loved him, disciplined him, and fought with him, but always and still LOVE him.
I'm not bitter. I just feel that the step parents who care are slighted through this whole process. I have people ask how my wife and kids are doing. It’s like they don't care about me. I answer honestly so folks don't get the wrong idea. I tell them I'm going to be honest. The response is, "Not good. We haven't made it to a day to day process; we are still hour by hour. Some things we can talk about and some we can't. However, those will differ tomorrow. But thank you for asking and caring. We need it".
Ever since Jeanne died I have been angry. Angry that she died; angry because she had so much more to do and give to this country, which she loved, even though she had accomplished so much in her short but successful life; angry that her children lost their wonderful caring mother; angry that she wouldn't be with us in our senior years to give us comfort, security and pride, but most of all angry at God for taking her. We will never know why or how she died and that really makes me angry, So much anger and so little relief.
I tried going to temple to pray. I tried speaking to my Rabbi, who said that it was ok, and to just go into the sanctuary and sit and contemplate. No need to pray. The person who comforted me the most was the chaplain, who knew Jeanne, worked with her and presided at her funeral. He yelled at God and told God how angry he was at taking such a special person at Jeanne's funeral. But most importantly, the chaplain told me that it was ok to be angry at God. I had good reason and someday I will come to understand. I am still angry at God and do not see God in the same way but I remain deeply religious, as Jeanne was, but more in a spiritual and inclusive way .Jeanne would be disappointed in me if I turned my back completely on religion. I FIND IT HARD TO PRAY to God. Our traditions go on but with different values.
When Jeanne died we planted a large tree in her memory, a crepe myrtle, hoping for blooms to remember her sweetness and beauty. It has been 3 1/2 years and we have never had a bloom. Recently we have been coming to accept Jeanne's loss, although I still wait for her to call me. But low and behold, unexpectedly, after 3 1/2 years the tree has blossomed beautifully and when we look at it we find beauty and peace in its graceful blooms that remind us of our beautiful successful but missing daughter. The tree came to life and is giving us pleasure, only wish Jeanne could come to life also.
My anger is subsiding but I suspect it will never go away completely.
How ironic that the title of my TAPS blog contribution this month is "Today I Am Angry." What a wonderful question Mary-Ann - what makes me angry? Today is my Austin's 36th birthday. We planned a balloon release this morning and then birthday cake. My sister made last minute, truly lame excuses and did not show up. I maintained self-control at the cemetery in front of my grandchild, worked through the proposed purchase agreement to sell our house with our realtor, and finally had a moment to breathe. My dear friends, I exploded.
Rage is not strong enough to describe the anger I felt toward my sister. The first question is why did I become so angry. Easy answer - I'm terrified my child will be forgotten.
Second, what did I do with the anger? Unfortunately, I was forced to hold it in for a while, which I'm certain did nothing but magnify my anger.
How did I finally deal with it? I phoned another sister and she allowed me to vent my anger (which wasn't very pretty) for as long as I needed. Poor thing had to listen to me rant like a wild woman for over 15 minutes. But what a gift she gave me. The rage is gone and yet another lesson learned - who I can depend upon and who will not be there for me during the bad times as well as the good. There are other things in my blog that make me angry, the laundry list I'm sure sounds very much like each of yours. But this morning I did something with my anger I promised to do in my blog. I wasn't ashamed to be angry. I found a safe person and talked (sort of a mild word) it out. If my sister hadn't been available, guess I would have gone for a walk or even phoned the TAPS hotline. And, most importantly, I embraced "anger" as a part of my very being, just like love, compassion, dependability - the "pretty" parts of me. I can in no way envision the anger over losing my child ever totally disappearing. But I'm certain my poor, beaten up steering wheel is grateful. I've made a conscious decision to embrace my anger and work through it. I don't know how much longer it could hold up under the abuse.
Your question is a good one. Anger can eat you like a cancer from the inside out. It exists, after a loss like we have all suffered. We want to make someone pay for taking our child from us. There comes a point, sometimes you even blame yourself or the others in your life for your loss. I have found this anger helps heal nothing.
When it consumes me, which it still can do after 15 months, I step back and vent it out in my head. Give myself time, before I react to it. I have always been kind, I do believe if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything. After this, I could be venomous. I didn't like it! Me causing pain to someone else solved nothing. Would it bring back my boy? No! Take your anger, even rage and channel it. Give that energy a purpose and do something for someone else. I do my thing, by giving my all to those children still in harm’s way and those that serve here at home. Smiling and thanking those older vets who like our children gave of themselves to this country! Find something else to do with that anger. When Jerry first died, I planted so many flowers, bought so many angel statues for my garden. It made me smile and it gave me something else to concentrate on. For a while I just bought shoes.. Lol, till one day I realized I had no more room for them. What was I going to do with them all? So I focus my energy and channel the anger to something that's worth something. I feel better doing something for others. They have no idea that it makes me feel better. I'm needed and I feel better. I honor my son; I accept I can't change what happened. It still sucks. But it works for me.
Right now I'm working on fundraising, getting money to give bicycles to wounded warriors. Some with wounds you can easily see, others with ones you can't. These hand crank bicycles are amazing. I think how very fortunate their families are to still have them here. I give them bicycles in memory of my son and they have a bicycle to help them recover, get stronger, achieve a goal. Feel part of something again, that feeling of being part of something again, like their units and brothers before their injuries. It works for me; they have to find something that works for them. If it feels good, do it and don't let anyone discourage you. They have no idea how you feel, they aren't you.
My anger came when people asked questions that were either inappropriate or just plain none of their business. Anger would boil over and usually tears would follow.... Finally, after listening to Carol and her Saturday followers (which is all of us) I learned a different tactic. Now when someone asks a questions, like "Are you through grieving?" or "Do you still go to the cemetery?,” I turn and look them directly in the eye and say something like, "You know the things I think about are the color of his eyes, the laughter in his voice, the day he received his law degree, the day he became a parent. I would love to sit and talk about all of these things if you have time." I am amazed that people are ready and willing to talk about those things. It isn't long before they are remembering the fun things they did with Jim. It also gives them an opportunity to speak about someone that they loved who has died. I had Jim in my life for 48 years and I have so many memories. It took only seconds for him to die, it will take a life time for me to ever forget my son. I choose to focus on the memories, not the death. When I think of Jim, I want to remember his eyes, the tone of his voice, the smell of his Army uniform, the little baby I held in my arms, all of the good things… and there are so many of them.