When Grief Becomes Angry

…and in the days that would follow her sudden death and burial, I came to realize that anger was simply easier than grief. Being pissed off – blatantly or subtly – became my frequent companion…a sarcastic friend growing more familiar and more constant. Depending on my many moods, I could be increasingly more annoyed, displeased, aggravated, irritable, indignant, hostile, bitter. Rage became less uncommon. Obsessed with whose to blame, I was on a mission.

Grief was my slow burn. Drinking more, gambling more, high more…even fucking more. More avoidance became my elixir for less pain. More distractions. Make no mistakes. I’m sure you don’t understand. I have every right to feel like this.

You don’t understand and I’ve convinced myself you can’t understand. I’m misunderstood.

Pretending fairly well at work, most days anyways…I am worse alone. Little things became big issues with no effort. Traffic, spilled milk, Fox News, just running late…no matter…stupid people piss me off. I don’t need the aggravation. Easily distracted, I crave new and different ways to keep my internal departments in tight order and declare to all I have no interest in dealing with any of that shit… I told you I don’t care!

I’m not going back…there’s no returning. Dead is dead. All that’s left is her ghost that haunts me.

But all the while, I would surely know my anger was my poison. Toxicity leaking gradually into my thinking, my loving, my body, my soul. Pushing others away while making room for “just let me be” and my growing desires to control anything or anyone that’s really uncontrollable. I don’t want to hear it.

OK…You happy now? I Googled it.
Pissed is best than helpless, hopeless and disinterest.
Bad sleep, bad energy, preoccupied…not much interest anymore.
Sometimes reckless… I said “fuck it.” It don’t matter. Hypercritical, more judgmental but don’t ask me to decide. Self-loathing. Aches and pains…back hurts…stiff neck…I’m sore, God damn it!

I don’t remember when I missed the part that I was dying too.
Leave me alone. Let me be. Get away. I got this. No!
Beyond what I used to think was love… what I felt was love – I was dying too.
Gradually, not suddenly, I found the careless truth in that old sad song: “You always hurt the one you love.”

Now I know how love hurts. Anger is the mask I wear. I disguise the grief and loss and fear I keep because you died on me.
My secret is that I’m so scared.

*I dedicate this post to all who grieve the loss of love and are left with fear.

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When Grief Becomes Angry

Gratitude in Grief

Finding gratitude in grief can be one path toward healing the hurt of sorrow or loss. Just as some spiritual writers suggest that saying “thank you” might be our perfect prayer to God… expressing thanks can begin to satisfy our deepest yearnings to honor and give meaning to a life no longer shared here and now.

Looking for, listening to and feeling open to thankful moments within the sadness of grief – over time – can empower our sense of loss, soothe our heartache and focus our disillusionment from resentment towards appreciation.

While death hurts, gratitude can be transformative… even in the shadows of the darkest hours of shock, rage and despair…thanks can glimmer hope.

We know grief is a very individual process. There is no one way or right way to grieve. We all feel and express grief in different ways.

Some prefer to grieve alone in private or within a close circle of family and friends. Others value public opportunities to grieve in groups with ceremony and rites of passage. Surely, many of us grieve in both ways from moment to moment, time to time, season to season. And yes, grief can last a lifetime in varying ways attached to just as many variable memories.

Grief is like walking an ocean beach. Grief comes in waves, moves in tides and is relentless.

Within the raw pain of death, separation and loss, our individual coping styles in the face of death – mental, emotional, physical and spiritual – all reflect our unique personal experiences; our beliefs about living and dying; the degree of trauma we associate with the death; and the complex thoughts, feelings and behaviors the impact of death has on ourselves and others.

Grief is always filtered through our resiliency – our deepest capacities to cope even in the darkest of hours.

No loss, no grief, no trauma is ever minimized. What is true for you is your experience.

The meaning we attach to death varies from death to death…person to person and any meaning can change.

Where we find strength matters. Many find profound strength within themselves they never knew existed. Many also find strength in family, friends, spiritual beliefs and faith inspiration.

Without a doubt, there are healthier ways to cope with grief than other destructive ways that can be damaging to ourselves and others. Repeated attempts to numb grief with excessive alcohol, recreational chemicals, prescription drugs, spending money wildly, abusing food or sex – these self-medicating kinds of behaviors are easily abusive or addicting. It is not uncommon for some persons to act out grief in less than optimal ways.

Sometimes I remind mourners that dying is about the person dying… the dying is really not about you. That doesn’t negate in anyway that the person dying is having a profound affect upon your daily living… moment after moment… but the process of dying really does belong to he/she who dies. We sometimes forget that in the chaos of our pain.
If this is so…what is about you… the griever?
Indeed, your grief gets to be all about you. Perhaps ironically, your grief is not about the dead… your grief is about you and your response to death as you are left living.

Suggestion: Please don’t let other people tell you how to grieve.
It’s not their pain… it’s your’s.

And, of course, as always… it’s OK to ask for help.

Gratitude in Grief

Hope = Compassion + Forgiveness

Photo courtesy of NPR
Photo courtesy of NPR

As a minister, I’m on the lookout for moments of contemplation into action within my personal and professional encounters throughout the day. Finding the Sacred (or Divine or God or The Holy or Buddha or the goddesses or Jesus or Allah) is not always easy. I teach myself to look more carefully; listen more intently; and touch more intentionally. I have much to learn.

Amidst the despair, fear and revenge of the tribal war between Israel and Palestine, this NPR story by Ari Shapiro, a Jewish journalist, offers glimpses and whispers of hope, compassion and forgiveness… the mission of my interfaith ministry.

The forgiveness moment is soft and subtle… but it’s there… a gentle reminder that just as there are many paths to God, there are also many paths to reconciliation. Can you help me find forgiveness?

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/07/09/330160839/what-happens-when-israeli-mourners-visit-a-palestinian-family

Forgiveness
Forgiveness
Hope = Compassion + Forgiveness

Rainbow Bridge Prayer

Rainbow Bridge Poem
Rainbow Bridge Prayer

Pets have been an essential part of our human experience since prehistoric times. History suggests people and dogs have shared special bonds for at least 11,000 years. Asian dogs, African cats, Peruvian guinea pigs, Chinese goldfish, European polecats, Cuban birds, Syrian Hamsters – all have evolved toward domestication for the delight and special companionship of young and old.

We love our pets. Our pets love us.

Pets enrich our lives. Indeed, pets our truly beloved members of the family and integral to the herd. Many have told me that pets help motivate them out of bed in the morning and provide a consistent and predictable reminder that life is better not lived alone. Pets can help improve mood, enhance health and well-being, lower blood pressure, speed healing, boost vitality and actually lengthen the long term survival rates of heart attack patients.

I have witnessed the magic of pet therapy with severely disturbed children, recovering addicts and nursing home patients. The special bond between pets and caretakers inspires, redeems and ensures. Pets provide unconditional love and extraordinary acceptance without judgement. Their companionship soothes and protects.

The death of a pet can be devastating and profoundly painful. The hole left in the fabric of our lives can ache in our minds and in our hearts. Grieving the loss of a pet hurts. Although the emotional suffering varies from person to person, there is no one way or right way to grieve. We all need to find our own ways to say good-bye and make peace with the loss.

Spirituality and spiritual beliefs can provide meaning and comfort during these hours of need. I will not debate here whether animals have souls. However, I will share that I believe the same Life Force that created me and sustains me, so too, creates and sustains all of Creation. We are all in this together.

Prayers and blessings for pets who have died are simply a logical extension of my spirituality and my interfaith ministry. If this is in sync with you and resonates with your beliefs, please consider the Rainbow Bridge today… and whenever you might need it.

The Rainbow Bridge is a poem that appeared on the Internet and in some veterinary officers years ago. Its popularity has grown and is respected. Its author is still unknown although it was most probably written by Paul Dahm, a grief counselor from Oregon. Using the Viking myth of the Bifrost Bridge, the poem provides a compassionate metaphor of hope and consolation for those grieving the loss of a pet.

I have used The Rainbow Bridge both as a prayer and a blessing for my own pets and others’ pets who have died… after all… all pets do go to heaven!

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; his eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together. . .

*This post is dedicated to Plato, Precious, Francois and Marg – each of whom touched my soul and changed my life.

Rainbow Bridge Prayer