This week Inside My Journal I share the honest truth about my feelings of anger during my grief journey. I share how through the acceptance of my feelings, simply as they are, I've been able to find a place of compassion and kindness for the shadows that exist within.
I have to admit I questioned writing this blog. I went back and forth so many times in my head, fighting with that inner voice that dared not speak up. I know the title of this blog may be jarring for some. It is for me too. I know that what I'm about to share isn't widely accepted as ok but if I'm being perfectly honest that's exactly why I'm writing this. It's why I absolutely knew I had to. It's also the exact reason why Inside My Journal exists, so that I and others can bring to light stories that have been left in the shadows. So that I, and others may shine a light on all parts of us in the hope that you, the reader, are inspired to live your truth.
Today I'm speaking my truth with a few nerves but a whole lot of bravery. My only wish is that you read the following words with an open, compassionate heart.
I guess it goes without saying that when I'm referring to "The Angry Griever", I'm talking about myself. The word anger brings up so much for me on its own, let alone following it with "griever". Those two words together just don't seem right, yet that is my reality.
Most of our lives we are told that being angry is something to be ashamed of, that it's a negative emotion and one that we shouldn't experience. Or if we do, one that we should contain and hide away. From my point of view, that's like telling the sky it should only shine and never be cloudy, like telling a flower it should only bloom and never wilt. The duality of life is that we can't have happiness and joy without sadness and anger. While I acknowledge that anger when taken out of control and context is not a healthy way to live ones life, at the heart of it, anger is the result of a deep, inner disconnection between emotions and communication. It's having the need to express ones feeling but not being able to communicate them in a way that is responsive rather than reactive.
"The duality of life is that we can't have happiness and joy without sadness and anger"
From this perspective it's easy for me to understand why I was so angry when my dad passed away last year. I was so angry at him and it's not something I shared widely because I felt so ashamed to feel this way. Even now I'm crying writing this because it's so deeply sad to say beyond the layers of grief was anger. At a moment in my life when I had lost one of the most important men in my life, I was sad and so deeply angry. The heartache of those two emotions together was so confusing and utterly hard to bare. What made it even harder to talk about was that this emotion, of anger during grief, is not something widely accepted in society. We can barely have a conversation about grief itself, let alone discuss the parts of it that aren't accepted as "normal". The thing is, there's no "normal". There is no normal in life, in grief, in anything. Your definition of normal will be different to my definition of normal because our perceptions are shaped by our social conditioning. They're shaped by our family, our networks, our experiences and our values. Without all of this, normal doesn't exist.
I was angry at losing my Dad at the age of 34. I was angry he was taken from me so quickly. I was angry we never got to mend some broken threads from our past. I was angry he didn't answer my phone call on Father's Day, 3 days before he passed away, so I could say I love you one last time. I was angry at the mess he left behind, leaving us with cleaning out his house, his fridge. I was angry at him that I had to choose his coffin, that I had to choose what clothes he would wear one last time and what flowers he should have at his funeral. I was angry my sister and I had to collect his ashes on our own. I was angry we had to tie up his paperwork from his job and pay his last bills. I was just angry that I loved him so much and now he was gone, that he'd left me here with my heart broken wide open with no idea what I was going to do with the new me I had become. I was even angry at myself for feeling angry.
You may be reading these words and wondering how any daughter could possibly be angry at their Dad who has just passed away. How could I possibly be angry at him for something he didn't chose. How could I possibly be angry at him for any of it? I understand. I had these same thoughts which is why I feel so compelled to share this story.
Feelings rarely make sense, they come and go like the tide with little or no warning before the tsunami hits. They come from the stories we've been told, and told ourselves over the years, rarely based in fact and always based in past experiences.
I understand now, with some time and my grief mending a little, that I was angry because there was so much I wanted to say but I didn't know how. There was a disconnect between my head, my heart and my body because I was so deeply in the depths of grief. My whole world had just been shattered as had my ability to find a way to make sense of anything I was feeling. Of course, there is also no doubt that there were conversations left unsaid between Dad and I. I think this is what made me angry the most. Unfortunately, this is something I'll have to live with. I'll have to make peace with the fact that I'll never get a chance to ask him some of the big questions that will now remain unanswered. It will take time to accept this, to truly believe that in the end we said what we needed to say. That beyond it all, we both knew that we loved each other deeply, regardless of past mistakes, of past let downs and disappointments. I know in my heart this is true. I know we loved each other dearly, I just wish we got to say it to each other one more time over a drink and laugh on the pokies like we used to do.
"I'll have to make peace with the fact that I'll never get a chance to ask him some of the big questions that will now remain unanswered"
A little over 12 months on and I've found a way to accept my anger as it is. To accept it isn't something to be afraid of. To accept that there is a way That I, that we, can be with our anger in a healthy and healing way. In the end, there is freedom in simply being with our emotions. Simply holding inner space for them as they are without a need to change them at all. They are a part of us, not all of us, and they don't define who we are.
I wanted to share below a poem I wrote shortly after Dad passed away. I hope this can express to you the confusion, heartache and despair found in grief, with the sole intention of providing insight into this often lonely process that we'll all inevitably go through in our lives.
Beyond this, I want my message to be one of honesty and hope. If you're in the depths of grief right now, know that I see you. I feel you and I'm here for you. You're not alone and what you're feeling is ok. There's no need to hide in your pain. Your feelings are valid, and I promise brighter days are ahead, but it's ok if that's not today, next month, or next year. That's ok.
In honour of my beautiful Dad, Robert John Cornford. 10 June 1955 to 4 September 2019. I miss you dearly. The most when I'm watching the sky wondering where you are. Love you always.
I don’t understand why you had to go;
I can’t catch my breath, I’m drowning, it can’t be time to let go.
You left me there calling your name, standing by your side;
Holding your hand while you closed your eyes and died.
I don’t understand why it had to be you?
You had so much to live for, there was still so much you wanted to do.
How could you do this to me, without another word said;
Now I can’t even sleep, I can’t even bare to go to bed.
My chest is full of pain, a pain I’ve never known;
Thanks, you did this, you left me here all on my own.
I know I won’t be this angry at you for long;
The feeling will fade and I’ll just be sad that you’re gone.
I’m just angry right now and I know that is ok;
It doesn’t make my love for you any less, I know it will go away some day.
But angry is just how I feel, at being abandoned by my Dad;
I’m just so upset, heartbroken and mad.
So that’s it, you left me last night;
No goodbye - just gone, gone where I can’t see you, so far out of sight.
If you've enjoyed peeking inside my journal, I would love to hear from you. Please feel welcomed and encouraged to comment below or on my Instagram feed @stillwithsammy and share your story as we rise up as one collective voice.
Or, if you have a story you'd like featured on Inside My Journal email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'd also be very grateful if you shared this post with anyone you feel would love to read it.
Until next time, I wish you well. May you shine bright, always.
With a brave, broken heart, Sammy xoxox