Angry

Image representing DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley pushing a shopping cart in a grocery store

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.

18 Replies to “Angry”

  1. Sometimes this helps: Write a letter-the more detailed and angry, the better-then, sit down (with beverage of choice) and light it on fire. Watch it burn, until it has all gone up in smoke.

    1. Oh, I love the idea of burning a written letter! Though then I couldn’t use it later in the blog…. 😉

  2. I’ve snapped at two people at work this week and I said to my mom two nights ago “fuck you so hard, lady.” I am not apologetic for my anger even though my MIL says it’s “pointless” to be angry. What’s the point of any emotion? Why is sadness better than anger? And I’m annoyed that Pete died and I have to move, that’s a punk move, Pete. Maybe you snapping at that dad will make him think before speaking to someone else going through something difficult. Sometimes I feel like there’s power in being a widow. Not just a get out of jail free card, but a patch we get to wear that says IDGAF so I won’t placate your ignorance. Also, I stand by my outbursts- the people were jerks and deserved it. xoxo

    1. Yes, the amount that I used to care about other people’s perceptions of me has gone WAY down. I don’t want to be outwardly rude if I can help it, but if I’m blunt or just calling things how they are (yes, my husband is dead) I can’t hold back anymore. That’s part of being a widow, for sure.

  3. Amen, sister. To everything you said here. Angry at my husband for dying, angry at stupid things people say, angry at people who go through life oblivious to what they have and are not appreciative of it. I saw our dentist about two months after my husband died. Everyone in the office knew about it (the hygienist and I talked about it at length during my appointment.) When the dentist came in to check me, he said “Well, anything new or exciting?” I wanted to say “Apart from my husband dying, not really.” But I didn’t. I just squeaked out the “Not really” part. That was then. I think now I would, like you, pipe up and say what I’m thinking, niceties be damned. Thank you for posting this.

    1. Oh, I totally give ridiculous answers to people all the time when they ask “how are you?”

      “Well, I’m great, except for my dead husband.”

      I swear, I never used to be so ridiculous. But now I am!

  4. Yep. Anger. That anger that only we understand. I can’t tell you how many tree trunks I probably ruined throwing rocks at them in the woods behind my house. Poor trees. The first time I said out loud that I was angry at my husband for dying filled me with guilt, but then, weirdly enough, I felt relief. Over time for me, that anger towards others boiled down to impatience, especially when THEY were “angry” about what I considered stupid things because I, after all, had been through so much more than they had ever been. Or so I thought until I realized that they could have been through worse things although what’s worse than your spouse dying? I don’t know their stories. At least I have a home, a car, a career, and a healthy immediate family. I have become “mouthier” because I have to stand up for myself, but in other ways I’ve become gentler because things that used to really annoy me just aren’t worth the rise in blood pressure any longer and I don’t react to them anymore. But it has taken almost 5 years to get there and I’ll always be a work in progress.

    You are in a fragile state and will be for a while. One day at a time; one moment at a time. You have a right to be angry. It will soften. I never thought it would, but it does. I think you eventually come to a kind of calm, observant, introspective wisdom that grows from your grief with the anger settlling down into something less ferocious. Keep writing. These raw entries are so honest and soul-baring, and you aren’t alone. Hugging you….

    1. I love love love what you wrote here:

      I have become “mouthier” because I have to stand up for myself, but in other ways I’ve become gentler because things that used to really annoy me just aren’t worth the rise in blood pressure any longer and I don’t react to them anymore.

      Mouthier and gentler. Yes, that’s widowhood.

  5. Marjorie, thank you for sharing this. It is a part of the grieving process that I feel is most misunderstood and often suppressed by those grieving. I also feel a lot of anger at times at my husband for leaving me to handle this life alone. I feel isolated and just really tired from picking up the pieces every single day of a life that I don’t want and didn’t ask for. The love for my child is what keeps me going. I have lashed out at family members and friends and I have hurt people when my intense grief and sadness turns to anger. My biggest fear is becoming bitter end having it ruin my life. Like you, I married young and I built my life with my husband. I now feel like I am back to being in my early 20’s starting over, but not with the curious and adventurous mind and spirit, but with decades more life experiences and responsibilities. My circle of friends no longer fits and I feel lonely and displaced. Why did this happen to is, to me? There isn’t a reason. Sometimes shit happens and this time it happened to me. And it is okay to be angry at that. I truly think, it is part of healing and final acceptance of our new life

    1. I have such a wonderful group of loving, supportive friends AND sometimes I still feel lonely and displaced. I think it’s just part of the process of being widowed and trying to find a new way to interact with the world. But like you, I do not want to become bitter. I still want to live and find joy in this world!

  6. I understand. I get angry that we are no longer someone’s priority in life. I have always had difficulties standing up for myself, but boy did I learn quick. I have learned to put my son and myself first because nobody else will.

  7. I understand that anger. I understand because I , too, am a widow. Those who are not widows or widowers don’t really get this. I’m glad they don’t because it means they still have their spouse. I have had the anger over this last year(year two of being a widow). I got into a huge argument with a family member because of my anger. I’m happy to say the anger has subsided. I’m just in a lonely state right now. The stages of grief suck but basically grief sucks. Time helps. It truly does. Take care.

    1. I seem to fluctuate between anger and loneliness – not a good set of emotions! But sometimes I can see the light…..and yes, time does help.

  8. I’m a 35 year old with a two year old daughter watching my 30 year old wife die slowly from end stage renal failure.

    Its terrifying contemplating what’s going to happen, how life will be or how I will be once she’s gone.

    Life’s been so strained for so long. My wife has type 1 diabetes and I nearly lost both her and our daughter late in the pregnancy. Our wee girl was born with multiple heart defects and required multiple surgeries. But we got through all of that.

    Then we found out about a year ago that the wifes renal function had significantly degraded to total renal failure. She can’t make it into a transplant list until she’s healthy enough. To make matters worse her immune system is shot. She can’t catch a break, so much as a crack in dry skin will abcess and become infected, resulting in more time in hospital and less chance of a window of health to get a shot at a transplant.

    We’ve realistically lost all hope she’ll ever be well enough for long enough to get on a list, let alone stay on it enough to be on it when a donor organ becomes available. In our country circumstances count for nothing, it’s all about how long you’ve been on the list.

    Now I look at the love of my life withering away week by week, slowly dying before my eyes and there’s nothing we can do except frustratingly wait for the times she can be at home to spend some time.

    Then I look at the sweet little girl next to me and my heart just drops and spins. Will she remember her mother? Will she be heartbroken as she grows up? Am I strong enough to do just as well raising her once I’m alone?

    I hadn’t thought to even look for someone else so young blogging about it online and it brings some degree of comfort to be able to read about someone else’s experience. I’ve only begun to read but it’s good to know there’s something to lean on out there.

    1. First of all – I’m so sorry. It doesn’t make anything easier, but dealing with the worst thing life can throw at you…..well, just know that there are others out there who understand. I’m not sure there’s anything I can do to ease your pain, but I know this – there can be great beauty in those last times together, even if they are horrible. And your baby girl will be okay, that I promise. There are days when I’m not sure I’ll be okay, but I KNOW my kids will be. They remain resilient – and they keep pieces of both of their parents in them, no matter if those parents are alive or gone. Sending hugs.

      1. Thanks Marjorie. I watched something over the last couple days. Ricky Gervais actually. It made me realise I’m not really truely emotionally connecting with what’s happening, which is never healthy. It’s because I’d given up hope. Without hope, what do we really have? It’s the one thing we can’t afford to give up on.

  9. I’m angry. Angry my wife has lost her life, angry that I have lost most of our friends, angry at myself for failing my family. It will soon be a year since her passing and the anxiety is building as to what will I feel on the day.

    I am fighting back – I am trying to be a better parent to a young child, trying to judge less and be open to more, trying to appreciate the little things like a nice day or laughter. It’s a long, lonely road especially when you are holding the hand of someone so young who lost so much.

    Thank you for your blog.

    1. The weeks leading up to the one-year anniversary of my husband’s death were the worst. It felt like a relief to get through that day, and I bet it will for you too. And yes, I think it’s a tough journey, but one that does eventually get easier as the time goes on. Stay strong. Sending hugs.

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