I don’t know the five stages of grief by heart, although I should after all of the “grief” reading I’ve done over the last seventy-seven days, but I do know that anger is one of the emotions. And I’m there. Right now. I’m angry.
I’m angry that both of my parents are dead. I’m angry that my mother and I didn’t reconcile our petty argument before she died. I’m angry that her house is now almost completely empty of her belongings. I’m angry that my sister and I have to pick through each article of her clothing and decide whether to donate it or keep it in a storage bin for the rest of our lives.
I’m angry that people are starting to wonder if I’ll ever “snap out of it.” I’m angry that my son isn’t buying my mother a gift at Santa’s Workshop at school this week. I’m angry she won’t be with me on Christmas. I’m angry that I don’t know how to make her homemade chocolate icing correctly. I’m angry that people don’t want to talk about my mother anymore. I’m angry that it’s been three months since she died, but I still feel like it’s the first day. Maybe I’m angry I can’t “snap out of it” either.
I’m not angry at God. I am too scared to be angry at God. If I get mad at Him, I’m afraid he’ll “smote” me Old Testament style. I love my Lord and I’m thankful that He blessed me with amazing parents. I’m thankful for the comfort that He’s given me through this. I’m thankful that while I’m quietly crying next to my sleeping husband, God speaks peaceful stillness to my soul. I’m not angry with Him. I’m thankful for Him. I’m thankful for the promises in His Word.
I’m just angry in general. I’m angry we live in a fallen world where sin is rampant and people have to die. Maybe I’m angry with Adam and Eve. I’m angry with this whole temporary getup, and I can’t wait to get to Heaven.
And, worst of all, I project all of that anger onto my family.
Lately I yell like a tyrant when I find toys still in the middle of the living room floor- after I’ve asked my children to put them away five times. I don’t just yell a little. I go postal. My kids can’t stand my yelling, but it does prompt them to pick the crap up off the floor. At the time, it seems like using my “outside voice” is okay because it got the results I wanted.
But then the guilt creeps in- guilt that I yelled at my children or my husband like they were criminals. Guilt that I’m taking all of the anger associated with my grief and throwing it on them.
I know yelling is damaging. I know yelling isn’t what a good wife or mother does. I know yelling makes them miserable. My mother never yelled at me, so it isn’t as if I’m repeating a vicious cycle. I don’t know where I learned to yell. I love my children unconditionally- they are my most beautiful blessings, and they know they are loved enormously- but this grief- this depression- makes me want to rant like a banshee over things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
I’m just so sad- and I’m angry that I’m sad.
And that anger just consumes me.
Here’s an embarrassing and horrible and shameful example:
My daughter has asked repeatedly when we are putting up the Christmas tree, buying presents, etc.. After her twentieth inquiry, I snapped. I snapped at my innocent 9-year-old.
“My mother is dead and I don’t care about the tree or presents or Christmas right now!”
She immediately began to cry.
“But it’s Jesus’ birthday,” she sniffled. “How can you not care about Christmas?”
Precious, innocent child.
For the rest of her life, she’ll remember me screaming those words at her in the car. She’ll remember when her mammy died and her mama turned into a horrible, scary person. And for the rest of my life, I’ll remember making my beautiful daughter cry because she simply asked a question about the Christmas tree.
In that moment, I projected my hurt and anger and pain onto her. That’s not what a good mother does.
So I’m angry with myself. I’m angry that I’m depressed and moody and find it incredibly hard to get out of the bed most days, which puts me in a foul mood and causes me to scream instead of acting rationally. I’ve studied my Bible and begged God to fill me with the fruits of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control- because that’s EVERY SINGLE THING I need right now.
But I’m still angry.
I’m not loving. Or joyful. Or peaceful. Or patient. Or kind. Or good. Or faithful. Or gentle. Nor do I have any self-control. Instead, I yell at my precious child because she wants to put up a Christmas tree in December. I scream and push my husband away because he doesn’t know how to console me. I hide in my bathroom and sob because I can’t call my mother and ask her when the anger stage of my grief will be over.
I’m angry. With my void. With myself.
But here’s another truth: even before my mother died, I’d have episodes of anger toward her. I blamed it on hormones. I blamed it on watching my Daddy die when I was a kid. I blamed it on her.
My mother was wonderful. A blessing. A beauty. Everything to me. She was everything to me. We had an overall healthy relationship. And yet, she was the only one who knew how to push my buttons. She said things, little things, that dug right through my skin and hit every nerve. Little innocent things- things that she didn’t mean any harm in saying- but they triggered a negative reaction from me.
When my children were infants, she’d walk in and immediately say something like, “Susannah, that baby needs socks on!”
That’s harmless enough, but in my warped mind, I heard her saying, “Susannah, you clearly aren’t cut out to be a mother.”
That wasn’t what she was saying at all- my mother praised me in everything I ever did– but that’s what I felt she was implying. And suddenly I was snapping at my precious mama in a tone that she didn’t deserve. “Mama! Don’t tell me my baby needs socks! I know what I’m doing!” I’d yell at her (and then go get a pair of socks).
Anger is what prompted the last argument with my mama. My stupid defensive anger. And you’d think I’d learn a lesson from it. Any sane person would learn, ‘Hey, I was angry with my mother the day before she died and now I have to live the rest of my life replaying our last conversation. I better get it together. I better quit being so angry with the ones I love the most.”
But I’m an idiot. I’ve learned nothing.
I ask the Lord to help me- to work in me and through me- to soften my heart and let my actions be pleasing to Him, despite my grief and sadness. And some days it works. Some days I’m at peace that my mother is in Heaven. I think everything is going to be okay, and I’m a real peach to be around. I radiate light and love and warmth. I’m patient and kind with my husband and children. I smile instead of cry.
Those are good days.
But others- other days it’s there. That stupid anger. Anger about my dead parents. Anger about the last argument with my mother. Anger about my stupid infertility. Anger about piles of laundry that didn’t get done because I stayed in the bed until it was time to go pick up my children from school. Anger about the mess on the floor. Anger that the dog chewed up my tennis shoe. Anger that my husband doesn’t say what I need him to say when I’m hurting. Anger that I’m sad. Anger that I’m angry.
On those days, when I’m consumed by my grief and anger, I meditate and study His Word. I go somewhere alone and pray. Lord, you know how I pray. Fervently. Constantly. Relentlessly. I pray.
But it’s still there, like the enemy- that anger seeks to kill, steal and destroy all of the joy inside of me. It hides itself deep within for a short while- a day or two- until I’m missing my mother so badly that it erupts like a volcano and everyone at my dinner table is covered in lava.
Anger that my mother is dead. Anger that my father is dead.
I wish this stage of grief was over.
I wish someone would pay me a nickel for every time I used the word “anger” or “angry” in this post.