Of all the emotions I have experienced the last three years, the anger has been the hardest for me to understand and cope with.
The second week after his death, I shut down. I became numb. I had no emotion and I would just stare out the window. My body was protecting itself from the full extent of the loss. I was scared I had become broken and I’d never feel again. Every once and a while though, a burning rage would come through to the surface and I would find the energy to deal with some of the mess he left behind. I was at the bank and standing in line to close his account. I must’ve been staring off into space as I hadn’t noticed the line in front of me had dissipated but I hadn’t moved up. A voice from behind me ordered ” Can you move up?” In that moment I felt the heat in my chest. I imagined my screaming “F-you grandma! I’m perfectly happy standing where I am. You wouldn’t talk to me like that if you knew what had happened!!”
Of course I didn’t. I didn’t pound her one like I imagined either. But as I stepped forward I could feel my nails dig into my palm, and sweat pour down my face. As soon as I was done, I high tailed back to my car, screamed into my purse while pounding the steering wheel with my hands. I’m sure I looked lunatical, flailing around like a mad woman spewing about ten thousand F bombs in the middle of the parking lot, but I didn’t care. I was angry I had to be there in the first place, and pissed he was dead. I was angry at the debt he left me to deal with, while his family kept all of our belongings. And looking lunatical in the parking lot beat getting an assault charge for punching out a little old lady at the bank.
I had been grieving my husband for years before he died. After his first episode I felt like he was already gone. I didn’t understand that I was grieving until a year and a half ago, because I thought to be grieving you had to have a body or an end of a relationship. He wasn’t dead and we were still together. There was no body. What I didn’t recognize was the end of our marriage as I knew it was over. Our dreams and hopes and plans were now just that. Dreams hopes and plans. Anthony couldn’t grasp the full extent of his illness because the illness affected him in such a way he didn’t realize he was ill or couldn’t see his symptoms. I was grieving an ambiguous death. There were no good bye’s, no body and nothing tangible to grieve. I wonder if I had realized this sooner, if I could have reacted differently and maybe things wouldn’t have ended the way they did.
I’d never given up hope despite my grieving. I often blasted “What I wouldn’t do” by Serena Rider and sing at the top of my lungs to him on days when the illness was too much for him to bear on his own. But as the illness progressed and the more he became resistant to treatment, my resentment began to build. Days, weeks and months of him sleeping 16 hours a day, my working full time, taking care of the house, kids and him, began to wear on me. I had no balance anymore and I began to burn out.
I was angry, anxious, and confused. I was having fleeting moments of severe anxiety after he was diagnosed and now believe I was suffering from PTSD. I remember driving my daughter to school one morning and realizing I had driven around the same block three times. I forgot where I was going. It literally looked like there was a white haze everywhere and I struggled to keep my own sanity. All the impossible had become possible and I worried I would lose my own mind too.
So the anger built. I reacted to it, often picking arguments that didn’t need to happen. Sometimes I’d just shut down and not speak for a few days. I know that hurt him. I didn’t have the words and I couldn’t decode my own emotions. We fought furiously some days. Though he was the one diagnosed, Bipolar affected both of us; making us behave in ways we wouldn’t have if it didn’t exist. I’m angry I didn’t get to say sorry for my mistakes before he left us behind.
Now I’m angry at his dad and sister for their ignorance. For talking him off his medication. At the illness and at his choice. I’m furious at the mental health system and his psychiatrist. I’m angry I have to navigate the world without him and my kids do to. I’m angry the world is so cruel sometimes. I’m pissed off that he didn’t leave a note or say goodbye. I’m angry that I’m angry. It doesn’t feel like I should be or that I’m even allowed to feel this way. People have said I need to get over it. Like I have a choice over how I feel?
I don’t. I feel the way I feel. Anger is one of the stages of grief and it’s natural. But it’s how I react to it that matters. I will move towards forgiving who and what I feel I need to. Including myself. I will work through the anger through writing, dancing and walking. I believe it may always be there when I think of the way he died, but I won’t let it consume me nor will I hurt others because of it.