I spoke with a mother this weekend who is angry. Very, very angry. Her baby died, and she doesn't know why. Neither do the doctors. She just died. And she's angry. And hurt. And sad. And confused. And tired. And then the anger, it starts all over again. Sometimes turns to rage.
I know immediately what that rage feels like. I remember it in my bones.
Only, as she tells me, she's a woman. What in the world is she supposed to do with her anger?
A good question.
Since I was a child, I have been taught how to suppress anger, and I bet I'm not the only one. If I threw a fit, I was sent to my room. If I got mad and stomped around, I was sent to my room. If I kicked and screamed, I was out of control. If I threw a tantrum, I was spastic.
Where then was anger supposed to reside inside of my body?
I learned that very quickly.
The only problem is, it didn't actually go away. It built up. It boiled, it bubbled, until one day, on the day my baby died, the anger started to seep out.
So, you might think when it overflowed, I screamed and cried and raged, but oddly, I sat silent most of the first day--confused by the people around me, oblivious to the fact that I was angry, at least in that early confusion of shock and anger.
My baby was dead. That was what kept going over and over inside of my head. There is a dead baby inside my body. There is a dead baby inside my body.
That tape played continuously. Remember as a child when your brother or your friend said something you didn't want to hear and you covered up your ears and sang, la, la, la, la, la. I can't hear you! Make it go away.
That's pretty much what happened. I shut down and the tape kept going over and over again and again. Dead baby. Dead baby. Dead baby.
And then, slowly, over a great deal of time, the reality of it set in and after the delivery, after the people had gone home, after the arrangements for the body were made, after the abundant casseroles were put into the freezer, after the milk let down, after the bleeding stopped, that is when the anger appeared.
The anger brought fear along with it. The anger stood up and introduced confusion. The anger came and threw a party for isolation. The anger snickered and taunted and teased until my body grew weary and gave in and just exploded in all the right and wrong ways.
And as I learned to express my anger, a strange thing happened. It started to lose power over me. I started to feel stronger. I was the mother bear who though she couldn't protect her cub, could protect the identity of her cub and shout from the top of the mountain, "Grace matters."
Anger is as valid and appropriate as sadness, as joyfulness, as love. Anger and fear and hope and exultant feelings all reside inside of our bodies.
I am so sorry that your baby died, I said to this mother. I wish I could tell you something else. I wish that you didn't have to talk to me about this horrible, tragic, life-changing, forever event, I continued.
But I will stay on this journey with you. And it will not always be pretty, and it will not always be so raw either. This anger is love. This sadness is love. And it is all good in its own tragic, painful loving way.
Love then is anger and fear and loneliness. Love is tossing rocks into the river, breaking dishes on the ground, spilling a glass and throwing it against a wall. Love is stomping your feet and flailing on the ground and screaming out loud: I want my baby; I want my baby; I want my baby.