Through Gritted Teeth

I don’t particularly find solace in the stages of grief (or support that they’re accurate) but even if I did, I truly didn’t think I would experience anger. I didn’t relate when people said they were mad at God or life or themselves after they faced a tragedy. I guess it’s because I don’t blame my mom’s death on anyone or anything. Life is messy. But despite all this, anger did creep in somewhere. It’s the tricky kind that lurks below the surface and bubbles out with disguised roots – like lashing out at dirty dishes or overreacting to misspoken words from my husband.

One night, Adam and I were sitting on the beach drinking wine under the stars – it seemed a picture-perfect setting for peaceful thinking and conversation, but I was in another place. My teeth were gritted; Adam sat beside me and every nerve in my body was convinced he must have done something to upset me during the evening. Why else would I feel like yelling or throwing rocks? Giant waves broke fiercely against cliffs and a cold wind whipped across my face. It was a funny feeling to realize I was comforted by these ungentle acts of nature. I felt at peace because I was watching external expressions of my insides.

I am angry, I said to myself, surprised. It wasn’t Adam and it wasn’t anything I’d experienced that day. Deep in my heart I was mad because my mom died. I wanted to stay there with the wind and waves all night to watch them tell me how I was feeling.

It was a really important realization; many of my reactions make more sense now that I know this emotion is a valid force in my life. I feel okay about the anger because even if I don’t blame anyone that mom is gone, it still isn’t fair. It still hurts. I still don’t want to be without her. I have waves crashing inside of me that need to be felt. I do try to let the waves exit as tears instead of gritted teeth, and I try to hug Adam instead of throwing dishes at him (okay, I never threw dishes at him, because he’s amazing, but you know).

I think it’s important to understand that anger is as valid as sadness or joy. I look forward to letting it go one day, but for now, in the same way that I need to express these other emotions, sometimes I just need to throw rocks into the ocean and find solace in the crashing waves.

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16 thoughts on “Through Gritted Teeth

  1. Great post Jennelle. Such a great way to relate our emotions to nature, and an important thing to be able to find ways to describe how we are feeling.

    Love you!

  2. I started practicing yoga a few years after what happened in my relationship with my Mom, and learned that maybe it’s not so much about “letting go” as it is about “sitting with” your emotion, acknowledging that it’s there and that it’s ok. I believe that it will eventually get up and walk out the door for good, but in the meantime, whenever it shows up, I sense it just needs to be acknowledged, so I try to sit with it and take deep, calm breaths. It sounds like you were able to find a similar answer while sitting with your anger by the water.

  3. I love this! I agree that allowing yourself to feel the emotions, and name them for what they are, is the way to move forward toward healing. Thanks for sharing this up close and personal example…so proud of you!

  4. You are soo inspiring! I find the clarity that you bring with your emotions to be amazing, thank you for your willingness to share your heart :)

  5. Thank you so much. I think it’s exactly true that they key to managing our emotions, in any circumstance, is to acknowledge and befriend them! If you feel something, it is a truth that you are feeling. However we usually attempt to change the emotion instead of its root. From the time we are children we are often told to stop crying, or we are sent to our rooms for being angry. Granted, there is a golden mean to live and parent by, but when it comes to expressing emotions we should at least begin by listening to ourselves (and to children). Nature is such an amazing means by which we can learn to start listening!

  6. It is always refreshing to come across such honest self-analysis, and it can indeed be a relief to understand where these underlying emotions come from, and how they manifest.

    I have two young children, the youngest of whom is pre-verbal, and I have been thinking a lot recently about how to manage their expressions of anger and upset. On the one hand temper tantrums and whining aren’t useful expressions to encourage in them, but on the other punishment for expressing emotion feels wrong. With the older one I try to get him to verbalise his emotion, but then what to do? He IS upset, but being upset isn’t going to change the facts… so express it and then??? let it go? With the younger one it is less easy. A parent’s quandary… but very important to be conscious of the effects of such things in the long run, I think. My Gran once said that she was more interested in raising capable adults then well-behaved children, which I think is a sentiment worth hanging on to!

    I also love the way you write of nature expressing your emotion for you, and thus giving you an external release and comfort. It reminded of a poem I wrote a while back, when I found my tears suddenly dried up and longed for their renewed release (https://laurelsreflections.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/unshed/)

  7. I couldn’t agree with you more. Even though my mom has been gone for a little over 3 years, I am still angry that she’s gone sometimes. I wrote several blogs on anger, trying to get it out, understand it. My anger lurks under the surface, waiting for something to trigger it, even something little. Most days I do ok now. But then there are others, an anniversary of sorts, a reminder of my mom, and the anger comes up again. I was very angry at God for not healing my mom. I prayed and prayed, begged for a miracle, even offered God 5 years of my life to give to my mom. But my prayers were not answered and sometimes they just aren’t. When I find myself feeling angry, I try to understand why I feel that way and calm myself down so I don’t end up lashing out at the kids. Thanks for sharing. ~Kathy

  8. What a great word picture! i especially liked that you wanted to stay there for the night. Don’t get too upset when you share with the person you least want to. We told the boys that sometimes sharing in a timely fashion would be important for your physical and emotional health. Even if we were sad not to be there and be the one and maybe it might even be someone we’d prefer not to know. secrets eat us up and timing isn’t always perfect. Thanks for sending this too me, you know my informant is gone and now I think I’ll cry a little more myself.

    1. I think this is a really important thought! You are right… Those people that we do end up sharing with can be so unexpected. It’s so important to be honest with ourselves about what we need in any given moment, and not try to fight against it. Our body usually knows what it needs and will become exhausted if we don’t follow its direction. Our emotions are so tied to our physical health, as you said! It’s such a learning curve to allow ourselves to be vulnerable at times, especially publicly.

  9. Thank you for this. My anger is directed at my mother-in-law and I find it so very difficult. I can’t help it – I’m angry that she is the only Grandmother my daughter will have, and although she is a lovely woman, she is almost exactly the opposite of what my mother (and in turn, I am) was, and I’m upset that my daughter is robbed of the influence and the strength of my Mom.

    1. Hi Lindsay, thank you for your comment, and I apologize for my slow reply as I haven’t been blogging much this year! Having just had my first baby, I can completely relate to the pain of your child missing out on the special aura and ways of your own mom. It is a new grief in itself. I haven’t quite figured out how to work through all of that except to make sure that I am bringing her “ness” (as I like to call it) to the table, and that I am very honest with my husband about anything I am feeling in this way. I am lucky to have such a supportive partner (though it is still never easy to handle everything as a couple in the grief arena). I’m glad you could relate to this post, I hope that you can express those raw feelings to some people close around you and that you are earnestly listened to and supported. Much love to you!

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