- Iris Arenson-Fuller
Anger, Anger Everywhere
Here we are, celebrating the debut of this new blog. To launch the new venture, I had a contest over the past four days, for widowed women to submit questions and topics they want to see here. Two winners will be chosen shortly. A friend will help make the choice. The deadline for submissions was 11:59 P.M. EDT yesterday, 10/24/21. The winners will receive a modest Amazon gift card, if Amazon operates in their home country. If not, a small cash gift will be sent to the winner or winners.
However, the whole purpose of this blog site is to feature submissions of things that concern widows of all ages and stages, so please do keep them coming. Don't forget to subscribe, too, and to pass on word to other widows who might wish to check it out.
Today I will respond to two members of my community. One is Celina R. and the other is A. H. Both wrote me about the topic of anger.
A. H. shared with me: "I had an interaction recently and I found myself raging. It was what I imagine an out of body experience is like… I could see and hear myself, but couldn’t believe it was me — angry (actually closer to fury) over things I thought I’d long let go of. Triggered by a seemingly innocent question."
Celina R. wrote: "It has been six months since my husband died of a heart attack. I don't think I was an angry person before. Now I just feel like I'm drowning in anger. I find myself mad at just about everyone. Most of all, I am angry at him, for not taking care of himself. He was told by his doctor at age 40, that he had to lose weight, eat more healthfully and get more exercise. He ignored it because he said he was a vegetarian and his diet was healthier than most people's, including mine. He had a sedentary job and on weekends, he either watched sports, movies on Netflix or listened to music. He never was much of an outdoor guy.
Am I just a horrible person for my anger towards him? I miss him so much, but sometimes when I look at photos of him, or of us, I feel my muscles tense up and the rage just starts to come out. I did a lot of crying at first but now, it's just fury. I have two kids to raise on my own, and finances to worry about, a house that needs so much work, and I am ALONE.
Then there's the anger towards almost everyone else. I read things into what they say to me. Hours later I tell myself they didn't mean anything negative, but first I stew over their questions and comments. I bite my tongue and don't say anything to them when I don't like what they say, but there are certain comments that really upset me. One example is when one friend mentioned repeatedly how lonely she was because her husband was away on a business trip for a few days. I don't want my friends to walk on eggshells around me, but I think this friend, and sometimes others, can be very insensitive to me.
Is my anger normal? I hate feeling as I do.
Coach Iris Responds:
First of all, my heart goes out to you, Celina. I also relate to the rage experience you had, A.H., many of us have been there in the past. I know I have. It has been longer for you than for Celina, but sometimes the fury will come back in full force. It is just one manifestation of this unpredictable, forever thing called grief. Often it will happen at a time of stress or fatigue, or when someone has been holding in feelings about different things for a while. The feelings may not even have to do with the loss of your spouse, though sometimes they clearly do.
Celina, six months is really such a short time after the devastating loss of your husband. As for "normal", there is such a range of responses and behaviors of people in deep grief. The key is that you hate feeling the way you do.
I can tell you that lots of people feel anger towards their deceased loved ones and especially their spouses, even when there is no logic to it at all. I can understand your having anger about his not having taken care of himself. Perhaps his heart attack could have been prevented and perhaps not. You will never know. One of the hardest things about losing a spouse is how much the entire world feels out of control. That is so scary and sometimes, rather than face the actual pain and fear, it morphs into anger. Have you been holding in a lot of your pain and sadness?
How would it feel to have some tools to be able to let some of that out, yet to control it, if it becomes too much for you? What if, when you look at photos, or get immersed in memories and feel the anger coming up, you have some actions ready to divert you and to try to bring out a different mood?
Do you have some music that has always touched your emotions, or that was special to you and your husband? It may work to use certain music, or a movie you know makes you cry, to prime the pump and help facilitate tears. Though some people cry at the drop of a hat, others hold in the tears maybe more than is healthy.
Sometimes actually scheduling a regular time to sit with, or even wallow in the sadness can also help with that anger. I don't suggest doing this all the time, but if you have perhaps been avoiding it, it could be helpful to put regular "let it all out" sessions on the calendar. (I really mean really reserve a specific time or times for them.)
You might need to allow some of that time to also release some of the pent-up anger. For me, the car was my facilitator. After I dropped my kids off at school, I would get in the car and it would all come pouring forth. I would scream, sob and rage. If you are going to do that, I would suggest pulling over somewhere safe to do it. When it was done, I would feel temporarily cleansed and better able to go about my business. I know it sounds weird but setting a timer for how long you let yourself wallow, can be a helpful trick, and one that can avoid your giving in to this for lengthy periods of time when you have other things that still need to be done.
Have you tried writing a letter to your husband, pouring out as many of your feelings and fears as you can? No holds barred! Let it all hang out! If you're not into writing, try recording it on your phone or computer. Or get a metal pail or bucket, write out each of your angry thoughts or feelings and....actually set fire to the slips of paper with those angry thoughts. Do this in a very safe place, of course.
As for others making insensitive comments, I hear you loud and clear. We can't control what others do. They may not have any remote idea of their insensitivity. Try opening up the communication when you are not in the throes of anger. In a quiet, calm moment when you are with this person and nobody else is around, mention how a particular comment, or regular comments make you feel. Have you done this? Can you use the "I Language" technique, instead of the accusatory style of "You did", or "You said"?
How might it feel to get these things off your chest, or at least to lighten up the heaviness of them and to decrease the frequency of the episodic anger? Are you willing to experiment with things like this that could help? Use these as springboards and perhaps make a list of ideas that could work in the same way. Build your own toolbox of actions. Keep the list and use it.
All questions or discussion topics have been submitted to Coach Iris for publication on this blog, or have been shared with Iris in the past and permission has been provided to use the situations disclosed here. When contributors don't wish to be identified, initials or pseudonyms are used, and circumstances may be camouflaged to protect their privacy.
Naturally, any answers or input provided here are just opinions and without knowing the person and situation better, may or may not be a good fit for the contributor, or for every reader. The intent here is to cover topics that are typical and that come up often in the widows' community. Nothing here is meant to take the place of more in-depth work or help that some may wish to consider. Responses should not be construed as psychological, medical or legal advice. Contact Iris to set up a free info call, if you would like to learn more and want to consider working with Iris.