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Friday, August 25, 2017

Grief and Anger

When my husband got into bed last night, he ended up talking to the back of my head. I couldn't even meet his gaze. Yes, I was tired, but I didn't even bother to try to look at him because I was angry. His love for me baffles me sometimes because I'm not nice a lot of the time. And when I am nice, I'm a mess of a person with the snot draining from my nose and pile of soggy tissues nearby. He might argue that it's only some of the time that I'm angry and some of the time I'm a mess. But inside, it's all of the time. The rest of the time, I'm doing a good job of faking it.

Don't bother asking me why I was angry at him because I wouldn't have a valid answer. Please note my "faking it" face in the above picture.

If we were fighting, maybe I could channel some of the anger into that fight. At least it seems logical to associate anger with fighting. Anger with someone, instead of anger at nothing. Angry at the universe for stealing my 11-year-old son, my 11-year-old son who should be 14-years-old now and just starting high school. Angry at the air; angry at the clouds. Angry at the friendly cashier who asked me how I'm doing, when asking me how I'm doing seems like such a rude and invasive question. But I'm not much of a fighter. And my husband is just the scapegoat. I have a twisted feeling that it might be easier if he just got angry back at me. We could take turns being jerks and eventually, after a scoop of silent treatment, a serving cold shoulder, and a helping of being-really-busy-doing-other-things, I would apologize for being unjustly angry at him. Then I'd let him administer a big bear hug. Then I'd slap on my "faking it" face for another unknown period of time.

Don't be tricked by the anger, our therapist says. Mad Suzanne is actually Sad Suzanne.

If I'm not mad at him, I'm mad at myself. It's actually simpler to get angry at myself because I don't even have to wait for my husband to get into bed for that. I can simply battle it out internally. I'm good at that. Angry at myself for growing my son with only half a heart, no matter how many times doctors have told me that it wasn't my fault. That I didn't do anything wrong. That his malformed heart was just a fluke. Blaming myself is easier than chalking it up as a fluke. The word fluke should be reserved for flat tires or bumping into someone you know at a coffee shop in San Francisco. Flukes shouldn't cause immeasurable suffering to babies and children and their parents who must watch their babies and children endure immeasurable suffering. Fluke seems like far too nice of a word to be associated with what happened to Riley. What happened to Riley makes no sense. And it will never make any sense. It is senseless.

And even though it's senseless, being angry at my husband or myself is far easier than forgiving myself. For even considering to acknowledge that I was powerless to save my son. Even if I was powerless to save him. Even if my job during his lifetime was to love him, not to save him.

Riley in Newport, Oregon for eclipse.
I think the only people I'm not angry at are my sons. I will never be angry at Riley. None of this was his fault. He was born into it and had to endure all of the bullshit that went along with his fluke of a congenital heart defect. He never got a choice. And his brother is the light that remains in what is left of my broken, blackened heart. He is oxygen. He is water. He is food and clothing and shelter. When I'm near him, I feel slightly less dead. Because I am partially dead. Part of me died with Riley. And part of me is still alive because of his brother. And when that boy, the boy that makes part of me still alive goes off to his dad's house, it's like the little step stool that I'm standing on gets kicked out from underneath me. I get even more wobbly and it feels like the little piece of my heart that hasn't turned black from grief turns gray, and it's harder to move and to concentrate, in the same way that the chameleon struggles in Eric Carle's book when it's cold and hungry.

There are periods of time when the dread in my heart is so heavy that it's hard to move. Sometimes the sadness is more prevalent and sometimes the anger is more prevalent. I don't really know what triggers what. I suspect the angry volume goes up when my son is with his dad. But there are other things, too. Fall is approaching, the school year just started, launching my son--who is three years, three months and two weeks younger than Riley--into 6th grade, the same grade Riley was in when he died. Oh, October how I dread thee and the series of anniversaries that are fast approaching....

Riley (and Pepper) in the sand.
You see, October 8, 2014 was Riley's last day of school, his last day of 6th grade. And now that his brother is in 6th grade, as soon as October 9 comes around, he will have been in school longer than Riley was during his lifetime. October 9 was also Riley's final heart surgery. Then there are all of the horrible anniversaries associated with the downward spiral that followed surgery that led to his death. Then the younger brother will continue surpassing Riley--he's already taller than Riley was. In a couple of months, he'll be older than him. And just like that, the younger brother will become the older brother. Everything is upside down. Motherhood is much harder than I thought it would be. I think I need some more trees to chop down. In the meantime, I'm grateful for my husband who continues to love me all of the time, even when I'm angry.


  1. Anonymous1:27 PM

    Exactly how I feel....I feel your pain.Thank you for sharing it.

    1. Anonymous11:34 AM

      I'm sorry for your loss.

  2. Rebecca11:31 AM

    We were told our sons' rare condition was "a fluke" : a genetic chance making our firstborn the oldest of 40 worldwide, his sister just fine, and his brother the 2nd oldest globally. The fluke took our sonshine in February. Now his brother, his best friend, is the oldest. Every day is hard and like waiting for the other fluking shoe to drop. I'm sorry for your pain and wish you peace until our mother and child reunion.