They say that anger is one of the stages of grief. No one ever tells you how long this stage will last or how to tell that you’re in the midst of it. They also never tell you that you may be blindsided by the stages of grief, not when diagnosed with your own illness, but rather seeing a loved one diagnosed with theirs. It’s a tricky business, this grief thing.
You see, when I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease. I was relieved. I had been suffering without a diagnosis for so long that, though it was disappointing that there was no cure, it was still a freeing feeling to know what I had, at last.
Considering I didn’t grieve my own illness much, you have probably guessed by now that this blog post isn’t as much for people with chronic illness as it is for those who love someone with chronic illness.
I am one of those people.
If you have read our “Meet the Writers” section, then you know that my fellow blogger and one of my best friends, Quiana, has congestive heart failure—though my illness is frustrating at times, her illnesses can be fatal.
That is where the anger mentioned in the first paragraph comes into play…
For the past several months, I have been irritated with Quiana. Though some of this anger was expressed openly, the rest was felt in secret. In fact, she is learning about it for the first time with all of you. But, I promise, Quiana. Keep reading. It gets better.
She may have, at times, sensed tension—but for the most part, I kept it hidden. While on the phone with her, it was easy to forget my anger. We would laugh and joke with each other as if the anger had never existed. As soon as we said our goodbyes and I was alone in my thoughts, the animosity would slowly begin to wash over me again.
The problem, though, was that I couldn’t pin point why I was so angry at her which made me even angrier—that’s when I began making things up in my head to give me reasons to be upset. I would convince myself that she had lied to me about this or she wasn’t being truthful about that or she had said something, innocently enough, that was rude or condescending. These things that I began imagining gave me justification for my anger. Finally, there was a cause and her behavior was it!
Even still, I felt a little silly about being annoyed so easily so I did what I always do when I find myself in unexplained anger. I prayed. I asked God to take my anger and to help me see why everything she was doing was making me upset. Today, God answered my prayers.
I realized that I was angry because anger is an easier emotion than sadness. I had used it as a tool to try to keep my best friend at arm’s length so it wouldn’t hurt as much knowing how hard she struggles just to make it to another day. I was angry because I am not good with being sad. I don’t enjoy crying, especially in front of other people, and I being sentimental makes me uncomfortable. I was angry because the thought of losing her is too much of an emotion to bare. I was angry because how dare she get so sick? I was angry because it was easier than facing reality. I was angry because it allowed me to remain in my denial.
It was unfair to her—not just the anger I took out on her, personally—but the anger that I felt in secret, as well.
Now, I could have gone the rest of my days without telling her the truth—without cluing her in on the resentment I had harbored for so long. However, that would have been dishonest of me and I don’t think that is what God would expect from me. I had felt all this anger in secret. It was time to stop with all of the secrecy!
The anger that I describer earlier—it didn’t wash over me all at once.
No. It was quite gradual. A sneaky little bugger, it is.
When she was first diagnosed, I was scared for sure, but I was also determined and perhaps a little driven by my fear. I set out to research her disease and learn all I could about it.
Since I had been living my own low sodium life style for several years because of Meniere’s disease, I had the knowledge and ability to help her transition. I created a low sodium cook book and a care package filled with low sodium seasonings, some I had purchased and some I had made. This was her Christmas gift. I wanted to take as much of the burden, stress, and worry away from her as I could.
The anger crept in slowly and quietly several years later until I was suddenly angry all the time without even understanding why—I now understand that this was the only way, as unhealthy as it is, that I was able to cope with the growing realization that her diseases and suffering seem to be getting worse which was what the low sodium Christmas present, the millions of whispered prayers, the optimism, the late night shoulder to cry on was supposed to prevent! All of my attempts to make her better had failed. There was no way that I, alone, would be able to fix it.
If you think that was instrumental in my anger, then you’re darn tootin’ right, it made me angry! I wasn’t just angry, though. I was mad as hell!
I don’t know the stage of grief that follows anger but I sure hope that because I now understand more about why I am having these emotions, I will be able to deal with them in a healthier manner when the new stages of grief make their arrival.
It is also my goal to inform the loved ones of chronic illness warriors that it’s OK for you to grieve too—just don’t take it out on your loved one either publicly or secretly because it isn’t their fault. Don’t allow your grief to get in the way of the relationships you have with those people because their lives are hard enough as it is.
Be angry with the disease. Be angry with the circumstances. Be angry at the things they have to miss out on or the suffering they endure. Never be angry at the person because they don’t deserve your anger. They deserve your admiration because let’s face it, It’s not easy being us!
Dedicated to the strongest chronic illness warrior I know. I am so sorry for being unfair to you for so very long. I love you and admire your strength. May God bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you and may He lay His hand upon you and offer healing to your mind, body, and spirit.