Sunday, December 11, 2011
The Anger Stage of Grief
Well, it appears I'm still fully entrenched in the "Anger" stage of grief. It seems I'm motivated to write only when I need to vent. It's easiest to vent about work, thus my last couple blog entries hit that easiest of targets. On Facebook, I've been complaining too, but almost exclusively on another easy target: issues related to feminism. First, an interview with COO Sheryl Sandberg, where she talks of the gender pressures in our society as they relate to women with careers and their male partners. Then, it was the offensive soda ad campaign "Not for Women" from Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (I've saved a list of their brands and will no longer purchase any of them). And then it was the Health Dept over-ruling the FDA on changes to make it easier for young women to have access to the Day-After pill.
I'm more angry about other issues, more personal ones, related to my son (his life, his death, my life, the years I spent caring for my son, and the impacts that had on my marriage and career and health and happiness). But I don't talk much about those things. Most people wouldn't understand. Most people couldn't comprehend what my life was like and I wouldn't wish that on anyone. It was incredibly difficult. Something you have to take one day at a time. You can't look at it, big picture, because it was insurmountable. You let go of your hopes and dreams and just try to survive. You find a way to make it work, and all non-essentials fall by the wayside. You never allow yourself to think about what it would be like to not have the burden though, because that is just as insurmountable. Just as unthinkable. You love your child. To have your life back means for your child's life to end. Not a place any parent wants to be.
You cannot be prepared for a loss of a child, even when you've been told that your child will die soon, right from the time they were born. You learned to exist without a light at the end of the tunnel to keep you going. The only thing that did keep you going is your love for your child, and your desire to do the right thing. The effort required seemed superhuman. The endurance required came from someplace beyond yourself. Somehow you made it work. Somehow the next day came, your child was as safe and happy as was possible under the circumstances. This goes on for so long that you forget what it is like to live a normal life. What is normal anyway? Eventually you do make some changes that improve things for you, give you back some of the things you gave up. It's a win-win situation. You're both better off for the change, as hard as it was to make and even harder to implement. No regrets.
But then the day comes when your child chooses to let go and passes. It's a wonderful experience in many ways. A celebration of his life, and his freedom from pain and illness are at the forefront after nearly 2 decades of battle. And after the dust settles, it is time to start living your own life once again. It is irrevocably changed. There is a hole in you the size of Texas. Nothing fills it. Nothing dulls the pain of loss. Only time will do that and talking and grieving and riding each wave of emotion that spills through you at the most inopportune times.
While the emotion spilling through you is anger, there is less depression which is a relief in itself. Yet the anger often feels inappropriate as you focus on things that are "safe" to be angry at but with a level of emotion that is obviously unwarranted. Substitution.
In reality I'm angry that my child had to go through all those years of pain and suffering. I'm angry that I gave up so much of my adult life for a young man that will never graduate or get married or raise his own children. There is no living legacy. There is no balm to sooth my wounds. It now seems senseless to me, what we both endured. True, I have little regret for how I handled my burden. I definitely did not take the easy road. And I can get up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror and feel good that I gave my child everything I had to give. If the roles were reversed, I could not ask for more. And while I'm grateful that my regrets are few, it does not defuse the anger I feel for the sacrifices we both made. I know it's normal to feel it. And I try not to judge it. But I also don't want to get stuck in it either, and become a bitter old hag. I know that's a possibility.
As I surf each wave of grief, I have faith the emotional blend will change over time, and that the anger will give way to acceptance in a place where I might find some peace. And begin to move forward with the rest of my life. Until then, I am angry. So please bear with my anger for a while longer.