Each week in the Survivors of Suicide group that I co-facilitate, we have new members. More people whose partners have completed suicide, leaving behind confusion, anger, pain, and of course, grief.
Grief. It is such an uncomfortable emotion. I witness people trying to rush through their grief, trying to stuff it down, trying to push it aside. I am asked over and over when the grief will end.
The truth is, it doesn’t. When someone we love, someone who matters to us, dies or a significant relationship ends, we grieve for the rest of our lives. It isn’t always as raw or overwhelming as it is in the beginning, those early months, that first year. And yet, there can still be moments of overwhelming grief, even years later.
Anger is part of our grief process. Not every time, but more times than not we become furious with the person who died “on us” or who left us. There is no logic to this anger, no reason. It just is. It’s an important part of our grieving. It gives us agency. It protects us from the overwhelm of sadness and pain. It motivates us to do something.
Grief, of course, isn’t the only time we tap into our anger. Our anger rushes forward to both protect and motivate us in a million different ways every day. We know our anger is protecting us from deeper pain when we are focusing that anger directly onto another person, for what they did or didn’t do or say. The anger is whispering to us “I know this hurts too much right now, so let me take care of you.”
Anger gives us motivation to act. It wants us to act. To do. Anger is not a being emotion. It has agency and does not want us sitting in it, stagnant. It wants to flow.
Anger is uncomfortable. It represents the dissonance in us. Our very fibers vibrate when we are angry (ever been so mad you literally shook?). It wants resolution. It demands to be heard. To be witnessed. For us to take action.
The discomfort of anger, or grief, or sadness or any pain, is something we aren’t so good at allowing. Our culture tells us over and over how we must be happy and comfortable at any cost.
So we stuff. We push aside. We tie down. We ignore. We pursue happiness, ever seeking outside and trying to pretend that the turmoil we feel within does not exist.
This stuffing down can work for awhile. Hell, it can work for a lifetime, quite frankly, at some levels, to some degree. Even so, it causes its own dis-ease and discomfort. We wear a mask and so no one sees us, not even our Self, and we are lonely and distrusting of others. Distrusting because we know we are wearing a mask, because we know we aren’t being honest with others or our Self, so how could anyone else be honest and true?
A few months ago, as I lead a Parenting While Grieving group, I told the two fathers there—one whose wife had died of cancer within the last year, the other whose daughter had died in a bizarre accident a little over a year ago—that their very cores and beings were altered by the deaths of their loved ones. I reminded them that being in this space, this “new normal” is uncomfortable. I also most said, And if I had a magic wand, I would take this discomfort away. I stopped myself, and told them what I almost said and then said, The truth is, if I had a magic wand, I would wave it so that everyone could sit in their discomfort and know they are going to be okay.
This isn’t because I’m a sadist. I don’t get pleasure in causing others pain.
It is because I firmly believe that the majority of our world’s problems are because we absolutely cannot sit in our discomfort. Because we try to stuff down or medicate or blame our discomfort away. Because we are desperate to fix it. Because we cannot stand the dissonance it is trying to tell us about.
But that dissonance, that discomfort? THAT is what brings about change. THAT is what motivates us to look within. That is what gives us the energy to do different.
In grief we are forced to be different, because generally our grief is because of something that was in many ways out of our control. In anger, we are motivated to do and be different.
When someone says something uncomfortable to us, or even says something uncomfortable in our general vicinity, it is an opportunity for us to become curious as to why it is making us uncomfortable. That discomfort is an invitation to explore our Self, our thoughts, our values. It is a chance to dig into who we are, who we actually are compared to who we want to be, and consciously and intentionally decide if we want to do or be different.
This is not to say that people don’t often project their crap onto us. Many do. AND it is still an opportunity to look within and consciously and intentionally decide if what a person said is theirs or ours. AND especially if there is discomfort on our part, or defensiveness, or anger, it is a chance to really deeply look within and examine what that may be about.
I invite you this week, this month, this year, the rest of your life, to settle into discomfort. To allow it to be. To become curious about it, to try to understand it.
I invite you to allow your grief and anger. To let them motivate you to both look within and to be outwardly different from how you have been before.
I invite you to examine your own defensiveness and wonder where it is coming from, what deeper story about your worth is it tied to, and how you can shift from a place of defense to a place of self-exploration and deeper knowing and empathy.
Will you accept my invitation? Together I know we can do this. xoxo
(Today’s post is a revision to a love letter I sent out in July. Did you enjoy it? Want to read more? Then I invite you to hop on over and subscribe to my weekly love letters right over here.)