I am reminded today--in my thinking, reading and corresponding--of the bitter anger that accompanies our losses for a while. How dare the world go blithely along when I am so hurt and afraid and desperate? How in the world can others dare to smile when all I can do is cry? All of us who grieve have those "how dare you?" days.
How dare you complain about your everyday, pedestrian problems when you could be facing an existential crisis that seems like it will never end? Do you have any idea how good you have it? And do you have any idea how bad I feel by comparison?
Of course, I am feeling a strange combination of envy and superiority when I ask such questions. I wish I didn't have to face the issues that confront me. I wish I could go blithely and blissfully into a normal day. And of course I am the brave, strong, insightful, profound and realistic one compared to your naivete.
Oh, how I must repent for all those smugly superior and enormously envious moments in my own journey!
How dare you enjoy a movie, celebrate a holiday, laugh at a joke, live for a bit on the silly, superficial surface of life? Don't you know that people get hurt, die, feel abandoned and bereft? How can you be so insensitive to the pain and suffering of those grieving people all around you!
Of course I long to live on that surface for a while as well. And if only I could come at life with a bit of perspective and even a bit of self-deprecating humor, I might have a better chance of getting through the day. That would require, of course, that I would step back from my own pain and begin to see it in the larger context of a world of suffering and joy.
Oh, how I must repent for all those days when I insisted on being at the center of a universe of self-serving pain! How selfish I so often have been in this process!
And yet, I know I must be kind to myself in hindsight. We grieving people do the best we can at the moment. If we could let go of it all and move on, we really would. And eventually most of us do.
I learned how to stop picking at the emotional scabs so they could begin to heal. I learned that life is never all one thing or another. We live in emotional oscillation at all points of our lives. We have moments of horrific pain. We have moments of deep joy. We have moments of selfish anger. We have moments of superficial silliness. And all those moments pass out of existence. Not one of them is permanent.
I learned to choose my responses much more carefully. I got tired of wading through the mental molasses of angry disappointment. I learned that whatever feelings I feed will grow. And I became much more careful about the emotions I nourish and the emotions I put on a diet. Making choices about how to respond to primary emotions is a significant part of choosing hope on a daily basis.
Anger and envy are, after all, secondary emotions. Pain and fear are primary. We can choose who to go through those primary emotional experiences if we stop, breath, think and pray.
And I am ever more grateful for the patience of those who have loved me through it all.