I am a bit of a hothead lately.
Well, at least compared to my previous self. I’ve always been a somewhat emotional person, but anger wasn’t something I often felt.
Sure, I’d get frustrated when Shawn did something like leave dirty dishes in the sink when he left for work. I can remember thinking how “angry” I was at him.
But I wasn’t really angry. I was irritated.
So all of this anger I’ve been feeling lately – well, that’s something that’s relatively new for me. I feel angry much more often than I ever did when Shawn was alive. To be fair, I’m not screaming at random people in the supermarket.
But I want to. I mean, I was getting some milk and eggs the other day and there was this guy in front of me bickering with his wife and I wanted to scream at him, “what the fuck is wrong with you?!”
(I promise I didn’t do that. But I wanted to.)
When Shawn died, my overarching emotion was sadness. I felt such deep sadness that he wasn’t around that there really wasn’t room for a lot of other emotions. Slowly, however, I started to feel other things. Insecurity. Guilt. Sometime even happiness.
And now, anger.
I know it’s completely irrational, but lately I’ve felt angry at Shawn for dying. For leaving me alone in this world. I have had moments when I felt like he left me on purpose.
“How could you do this to me?” I screamed at no one the other day.
I could be angry at God, I suppose, but I don’t believe in a God who intervenes on this earth. I definitely don’t believe in a God that decides that some people get cancer and others don’t.
Instead, I’m angry at people who probably don’t deserve it. For example, at Tommy’s birthday party, I was chatting with a fellow parent about turning 40. I was under the impression that he knew I was a widow (I mean, I live in DC but my school community is pretty small) and I was saying something about how turning 40 involved “a lot of complicated emotions.”
“I just didn’t imagine my life would be like this at age 40,” I said.
He looked thoughtfully at me, but a bit confused as well. “Well what did you imagine would be different?” he asked.
I raged internally. What did I imagine would be different? Was he actually serious?
“Well, for starters,” I said, “I didn’t imagine that my husband would be dead.” The anger in my voice was palpable enough that I saw Austin look over at me from across the room.
The man didn’t say anything. Of course he didn’t. How do you reply to that?
I could have been much more gracious. He was just trying to make conversation. He was there with his kid who he was trying to manage and he was not someone I knew well. Maybe he either genuinely didn’t know Shawn had died or maybe he had forgotten. Or maybe he knew and was trying to empathize with me. No matter what, it was clear that he didn’t deserve my anger.
But he got it.
Maybe this is why I feel like people are always so careful around me.
A few months ago, there was this meme going around my widow groups. It was a quote overlaid on this scary image of two people who looked like they were some sort of ghost/zombie hybrid. The photo freaked me out. But the words caught my eye:
I sat with my anger long enough, until she told me her real name was grief.
I thought about that meme in the hours after my interaction with this poor man at Tommy’s party.
My anger is certainly just another part of my grief. It’s a changed grief, to be sure. My grief is no longer the kind that’s easily recognizable when you see me across the playground and I’m chatting with my friends and holding my baby boy on my hip.
My grief is different now.
The grief that I sit with is not the kind that people easily understand. Tears make sense for a widow. Rudeness – even if it’s justified in my head – is less well tolerated.
But it’s who I am now. I am no longer a sugar-sweet happy wife who can let things bounce off my back with a laugh.
I’m a widow.
And sometimes that means that I am angry.