And so as my faith grew stronger and my purpose seemed so much more definite life became so much easier, so much more peaceful, so calm, so full of joy and happiness right???? Hmmmm.... well, it is often said that the enemy attacks harder and harder as he sees us grow closer and closer to God. This is exactly what was happening in my life. As I found peace in losing Cole and found more and more opportunities to share my faith, the enemy began to attack my family, most especially Geoff, his health and in turn, our marriage. That spring things seemed to spiral downwards for Geoff. His job was something he loved to do, farm, but promises that had been made to him were not being carried through on and his co-workers resisted every step of the plan his boss had mapped out when he was hired...and therefore plans went out the window. He was exhausted, he lost a ton of weight and he was miserable to be around. He was on edge much of the time and being around him was like walking on egg shells. He spoke to our doctor and was put on stress leave. Initially this seemed like a good idea....time to get healthier, time to sort through things and, perhaps, time to re-evaluate his job. But unfortunately it put us in a very bad financial place and raised our personal stress level immensely. Reluctantly he returned to work and quite quickly the angry moments, for both of us, grew and grew.
I wrote about it in late May...only a month or so before things changed HUGELY for us... but I’ll get to that in a bit. It think sharing my exploration of anger is important as it was also very key in what happened a few weeks later. What you will read next was taken, in part, well mostly actually, from an actual blog post. I wasn’t going to include it all but when I reread it I realized how important it was to share this message but even more so, how important it was that I hear it again.
I never felt I had an issue with anger. I knew that I had a short fuse at times… and had always been this way. Usually I got angry, I spoke my mind and then felt that release. If I didn’t do this I usually ended up stewing for hours, unable to move forward, unable to forgive and forget. I planned what I’d say the next day, plan how I’d defend myself or let the other person know how their actions made me feel. I obsessed on it and could hardly sleep. And usually I let it go after a short period…not entirely, it sat waiting to rear its ugly head sometimes but for the most part I moved on.
But not everyone is like that. Someone close to me once told me that it’s great that I can be the way I am, great that I can blow, release, forgive and be happy all within minutes but he can’t…and it’s hard to deal with. I have such a hard time being around moody people or those who I know are angry with me. I want to fix everything, want the world to be happy and peaceful. It’s not a bad way to be but it’s not for everyone and can be pretty intrusive to those who don’t want to deal with it that way. Their way of stewing, mooding, being silent or spreading their anger around isn’t maybe the best for them but it helps them to come to grips with what has happened, helps them to find solutions.
Finding the root of anger is one of the hardest parts of a relationship… no matter who that relationship is with. That spring I had an epiphany about something that caused me to get angry over and over again and it was great to finally see that. It related to disappointment, unmet expectations related to Geoff and my marriage. Unfortunately I knew it would be a long road to recovery from this root but I was working on it. Being overly disappointed in some things that have happened over and over again, being hugely disappointed in what is the reality is very hard to take, very hard to move forward from. But again, I was working on it.
So with this new knowledge of my anger in my mind and just the fact that anger had been a big part of life lately, it was rather fateful that many TTTS moms had been posting about anger lately. So many were, and are, justifiably angry…and I’d definitely experienced my share of this grief and loss related anger. I felt drawn to do some research on anger in grief….at the time that I wrote this originally I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t drawn to this subject for no reason, it didn’t just fall into my lap… the Holy Spirit put it there. Now that I realize that, I am just so profoundly thankful that God gave me the nudge to research this…and to write about it to. And now I’ll share it directly here.
In my research I came across this quote from ‘On Death and Dying’, by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She wrote that one reaction we humans have to loss is anger. She said Few people place themselves in the patient's position and wonder where this anger might come from. Maybe we too would be angry if all our life activities were interrupted so prematurely; if all the buildings we started were to go unfinished, to be completed by someone else; if we had put some hard-earned money aside to enjoy a few years of rest and enjoyment, for travel and hobbies, only to be confronted with the fact that [we are dying]. What else would we do with our anger but let it out on the people ... who rush busily around only to remind us that we cannot even stand on our two feet anymore.
Obviously this is written about someone who is dying but I think the loss of a child causes you to die inside and so many of those things you had planned for your life appear to be shattered…and really are in so many ways. And even those who’ve had drastic changes, setbacks or personal losses (of a job, of a dream, of a relationship) are dying inside too.
The author of the article I found Dr. Kubler-Ross’s quote in wrote about the intense, all consuming anger that some people have and how scary he finds it. His fear stems from fearing for his safety but also for his loss of control when he is angry and what he will say and do that he will regret later. He shared that Dr. Kubler-Ross came to the conclusion that the small losses of our lives are the training ground where we learn the coping skills we use when we are faced with large losses. Put another way we tend to die the way we have lived. If we rely heavily on denial to help us cope with the small losses of life, we will tend to rely heavily on denial when we struggle to cope with the big losses. If we rely heavily on anger and indignation to cope with the small losses of our life, we are likely to depend on anger to get us through the big losses.
Wow….isn’t that a realization about how so many people deal with things. There are many people who do react with denial when things go wrong or when someone they know casually dies and they don’t really react at all. But I also know a great number of people who blow little things out of proportion and who get angry at the littlest things and can’t let go…remain so angry for so long. When a big upset happens, when a huge loss happens it’s catastrophic and throws their life completely off kilter. They get so angry, so bitter, and so full of negativity and it is so hard to move past that…and so much damage can be done at that time.
I decided while I was on this topic I would do some more research…especially in how anger affects relationships. What I learned is something I’d learned time again in courses I took for my job and in things I taught my students who were struggling with behaviour all the time… anger is a powerful, perfectly normal emotion that everyone feels at one time or another. Experts say that anger develops more often in the family in marriage and with children than in any other relationship. The second most common place for anger episodes… at work. Because of this, more people are injured by the violent acts of someone they live or work with than by strangers.
It is the most poorly handled emotion in society and you see it everywhere…Road rage on the roads, shouting matches and fights in the arena, violence at school and domestic abuse in homes. It is the source of many legal problems and the root of many health issues…headaches, high blood pressure and chronic pain. Science has just recently begun to recognize the contribution anger makes to these and other diseases. When coupled with workplace and family stress, unresolved anger can cause emotional, physical and spiritual health to suffer. This can lead the angry one to lash out at the nearest person.
But what so many people need to realize is that because anger can be controlled, it makes anger a choice. Anger is a learned response to a trigger in our environment. While some people may have a tendency to become angry, it's not okay to give in and simply say "That's just the way I am, and there's nothing I can do about it." Ultimately we are in charge of which behaviors we choose in response to the emotions we feel. How many times do we hear people say things like, "She/He made me angry."
That statement is inaccurate. No one is ever made to be angry. No one is forced against their will to lose their temper. Anger is a learned response to a provoking situation.
And how does that all tie back into grief and loss, you knew I’d come back to this right???. As I see it, as I’ve lived it, as I’ve watched others live it I see how controlling anger can be in your life and how hard it is to just be…to just live, to love, to laugh, to remember what life was like before ‘IT’ happened. It’s not easy. I was still so pissed off at times that I had this happen to me and to my family. I was, and still am at times, angry that I missed out on being that twin mom and Cameron won’t have his twin with him and I was still struggling with the changes that losing Cole had done to me…I wanted my old life back and yet I liked the new me at times too. I knew my family was forever changed because of Cole and, for sure, we had angrier moments and that anger had in turn affected all of us. But I knew I’d be telling the hugest lie around if I said that we didn’t have anger issues before. Thankfully we were working at these issues and had what we felt were some wonderful professionals helping us with this. I wouldn’t realize til a year or two later that these professionals, as secular workers, weren’t making the connection with us that would, ultimately, provoke us to open our eyes and change our hearts. But at least we had help.
When I originally posted this ‘anger’ post, I read a lot of my past blog entries and in reading these things I realized how far I had come…and in doing this blog project I realize how much further we’ve come since then. I realized that for so many reasons time really does help with coping. Unlike the saying, I don’t believe at all that it heals all thing, nor will time ever cause me to forget or to devalue. But it does help to make my heart feel more put together and not so broken and it helps me to accept and move forward. I have experienced the intense anger that grief and loss bring about and I have moved forward.