Stages of Grief: Anger

I've only knowingly cursed a handful of times in my life. I wasn't raised with swearing; it has always felt unnaturally crude leaving my lips, and the few attempts I made seemed unnecessary and shameful. But the night J told me that if we were to divorce, it would have nothing to do with his actions and everything to do with my inability to forgive, "F*** you" was the only response that carried the appropriate measures of hurt, disgust, and white-hot anger. I spat the words and slammed the door behind me.


Denial had carried me through months of semi-peaceful cohabitation. J insisted that all we really needed was to work on communication and romance; that children and responsibilities had sucked the life out of us and were the root of all our problems. While I knew that wasn't the entire truth, I also reasoned that I had to hold some responsibility for our current crisis. I'd been neglectful; taken him for granted; let myself go; allowed depression to dominate me; ignored my medication's side effects, or in some other way done something wrong. I made earnest efforts to change.

Despite that, nothing was different. I didn't feel like we made any progress at all-- instead, I felt like I was on pause. Just holding my breath, waiting for direction, or permission, or something to happen.

And then something did. 

It was a typical morning in late June. The kids were noisily spilling cereal downstairs. I was in bed, mustering the energy to face the day when J, without preamble, rolled over and tried to start something with me. 

I shrugged him off, and he sighed

He sighed in a way I'd heard a thousand times, in a way that spoke a thousand irritated and accusing words. "What?" I snapped and then listened, incredulous, as he spoke bitterly.

...nothing has changed... 

...this is unacceptable...

...in a healthy relationship...

...I'm so frustrated...

...I don't know what else I can do...

If our marriage was a house that was burning, than Denial had been like smelling the smoke and telling myself that I didn't have to worry about it until the the fire department got there. But this-- this was like turning the corner to find my husband calmly lighting match after match while looking me in the eye and telling me it was all my fault. Anger swept through me with numbing swiftness. 

I could not even find the voice to tell him how grossly he had mis-assigned cause and effect. My fury at his complete inability to have any empathy, to even consider my feelings left me speechless. I didn't talk to him for days. In fact, I've been told that he grew out his facial hair during this period, but I have no recollection of that. I refused to even look at him.

I was angry at how dire our situation was. I was angry at him for not taking any responsibility for it. I was angry at myself for 'allowing' it to happen. I was angry at how helpless I felt. I was angry that his choices were affecting our four innocent children and me. The only one I wasn't angry with was God, and in that respect, my dear therapist from years ago had been right: I had changed and could not go back.

A week later, after a heated argument and many tears, I lay in bed wrapped in my own blanket on the edge of my side of the mattress, as far from my sleeping husband as I could get. I had spent an hour trying to pray, but the only words that I could muster were, "I hate him. Dear God, I hate him. I don't want to be here. I don't want him next to me. I don't want to be mad anymore. I don't know what to do. I'm going to screw this all up. Please God, help me not to hate him."

That was the night I left Anger behind.

Tomorrow: Bargaining 

{image via AMC's Mad Men}


Miggy said...

This is some serious honestly lady. I applaud you. Not because you're telling it like it is (and letting us relish in the misery as the internet voyeurs we are) but because I have a feeling this is going some place good...some place that talks about healing and forgiveness. But first the brutal honestly that is sometimes the drudgery and beauty, the reality, of being with the same person day in and day out for years upon years. Last week I listened to a This American Life episode about love, but instead of focusing on the beginning of the relationship (like most every movie, TV show that proclaims to show us what 'real' love is) they focused on relationships decades in the making. It was so wonderful and so refreshing. I couldn't help but think what a movie about a 50 year marriage might look like--the ups and downs, the need to love, forgive, hold up, and hang on. I think this might be particularly helpful for people to read your story (and others like it, like the one CJane posted today) about marriage in the Mormon world where we don't talk about these things openly. It's good to protect our marriages and spouses and not to air dirty laundry, but sometimes we feel like we're the only ones who have or continue to struggle and that isolation can't be even more devastating. Thanks for sharing.

Crys said...

I read this and I can't help but feel it will come in handy some day. Not because Jones and I will have the exact same situation but because marriage and life are tough. The honesty and acknowledgement is empowering to me, I feel like I will have someone I can come to if ever I find myself struggling in my marriage.

mosey (kim) said...

I haven't visited here in far too long (or any blog for that matter). Something has been drawing me back to my reader in recent days and here you are, writing things that fill me with emotion and compassion and agreement. I could write a novel in response to each of your recent posts - it would include many "me too"'s, and also grief and empathy and sorrow and recognition.

The anger in particular I understand, as I felt so much similar to what you were feeling this past year, mostly directly toward the lack of empathy of the one closest to me. When we finally did find our way haltingly back, his acknowledgement that it was not my fault was the biggest hurdle to setting us back on course.

I haven't written much on my own blog in the past year or more, but if I had, it would be filled with the same stages you are so beautifully and eloquently expressing.

Much love, prayers, and hope to you!

Ima Foodie said...

Wow. Thank you for so much for being so brave and real on your blog. I can relate so much and it was so cathartic for me to go through and read all your posts from this year. Sadly, I am still in that anger phase. My prayers still consist of "I hate him" and I don't know how to let it go. I, too, have 4 children, and worry about how any choices I make will affect them. As much as leaving or ending our marriage scares me, at this point, I don't know how I can stay. How did you do it? How do you let it go? I've had so many tearful prayers, pleading for help, comfort, and answers... but I feel so stuck. Your words have inspired me to keep trying. Thank you.

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