Monday, March 4, 2019

In Grief: Having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

At midnight, even bad days come to an end.  ~ Ms Moem

A reader writes: I lost both my parents and it sucks. My father died before I even graduated from college. For me, I wanted to make my parents proud by going to college, and getting a good paying job and helping them out financially. My father died before I even graduated, and he never saw me off to my real professional job. Life seemed pointless. My dream was killed. A part of me died. Our family was broken. We had to find a way to hold the table up with one person short. At that point, I realized that the most important thing to me was to spend as much time as I could with family, especially my mom, since she was hurting so much because she lost her companion. She became my best friend and we did everything together. And I was happy. I just wanted time with my family. And then last month my mother passes away. I'm so shocked I can't believe it. Now what I lived for, just got killed again.
      I am having a terrible, horrible day today. I just can't get myself together. The last few nights I've been dreaming about my mother, but last night I didn't. So I woke up this morning feeling hurt, angry, abandoned, depressed, sad. And I did not want to get out of bed. This whole day has been horrible. I went to the grave site and just screamed my lungs out, till I felt like I was going to pass out. My mom was all we had....and now she's gone. I'm so angry! Words can't express what I'm feeling. There's no word in the world that can sum up all the excruciating pain and hurt I feel. I find myself avoiding everyone and giving everyone the mean eye to avoid me. Get out of my way, leave me alone. I've started a hunger strike and find myself crying and driving at high speeds. I just can't take it any more. So if you see me on the road.....I'm sorry...

My response: I'm so very sorry that you have lost both your parents, and I cannot imagine the depth of your sorrow, pain and anger. I would not for a moment take those feelings away from you, because they are legitimate, justified and completely understandable.

I am concerned, however, with how you may be managing those feelings, particularly when you say that you are engaging in risky behavior such as starting a "hunger strike" and "driving at high speeds." Feelings are neither right or wrong, good or bad ~ they just are, and we cannot always control how we feel ~ most especially when we are in the throes of acute grief. But there is a vast difference between what we are feeling and what we choose to do with those feelings, and we do have a choice about how we behave.

If you really believe that you are losing control over your behavior (not your feelings), if you feel as if you are a danger to yourself (as in starving yourself) or a danger to others (as in driving recklessly and putting yourself and others on the highway at risk), then I urge you to seek professional help at once.

That said, I want to emphasize that feeling anger and outrage that your parents have been taken from you is a normal reaction, because it is indeed an outrageous thing that's happened to you, and it's only human that you would rage against such an injustice! You see, when you simply acknowledge feelings of anger to yourself or to a trusted other (or by writing to me as you have done here) without actually doing anything about them, no harm is done, to you or to anyone else.

On the other hand, if your anger is suppressed and held on to, eventually you could erupt like a volcano ~ or you could internalize it and take it out on yourself. You could also misdirect your anger toward innocent others, such as family, friends and co-workers. As I wrote in my article, Is Anger One of the Stages of Grief?, anger is a powerful emotion that can be frightening. But feeling angry doesn't necessarily imply that you will lose control or take your anger out unfairly on others. You do have several other options. 

If you think of anger as raw energy, you will think of ways to discharge that energy in appropriate, non-destructive ways that will bring no harm to yourself, to others or to anybody's property. Find a safe place, space, activity and time where you can let your anger out (through physical exercise, hobbies and crafts, music, writing, talking with someone you trust who won't judge you, asking others for support rather than expecting them to know what you need from them, etc.)

As I think you've already discovered, pounding out your anger on your computer keyboard can be an extremely helpful and appropriate way to discharge some of that energy. Consider joining our online Grief Healing Discussion Groups, which includes a forum for Loss of A Parent. It is there for you to do just that, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Use it to rid yourself of some of that rage. You will be harming no one, and there is not a person there who will judge you for doing it.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here.

© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH

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