“Why are you being so mean, dude?”
I stared at them blankly I’m sure.
“Good question. I don’t know …”
I know now. After all of that compartmentalizing, after all of the pushing away and denying the reality that my father committed suicide, I slid right into the next stage of grief from Kubler-Ross’ model – ANGER.
I became angry. Very, very angry.
Teenage aggravation is par for the course. Usually, for many teens- lots of things suck and there is the undercurrent of anger constantly looming about. For a teen who experiences the death of a loved one- a death that was intentional at that, the vexation and anger amplifies in ways that I cannot explain.
It is experiential and it is quite painful.
I had a lot to be mad about. The defense mechanism of denial no longer worked for me, I knew that my dad was gone. I had to function in school, at work, within my relationships and without the person who was always there when I needed someone the most.
Being a suicide loss survivor is a unique experience. When someone dies unexpectedly, of course there is a cause. Something caused the person to die. A person can be mad at the thing that caused the death, and in some cases, the Higher Power that ‘allowed’ it to happen.
In my situation and in the situation of other kids whose parents died by suicide, there is the heavy cloak of anger that encapsulates us — being mad at the person who died. There are waves of missing the person, waves of being angry at the person, waves of confusion about one’s new reality.
All of the questions — and yes, I still had questions. Those questions that continued to go unanswered. How could have been? The person who had all the answers was no longer around to give insight …
I was mad at the doctor involved in my father’s health care, I was mad at my family, my friends, mad at myself, and I was mad at my father- big mad! I lashed out as a result.
How confusing it must have been for those on the other end of my anger – some of them didn’t know that my father died, certainly not in the way that he had. I simply couldn’t talk about it. Doing so made it too real, actually doing so was too painful …
I became short tempered with the people that I had been so fond of and had tremendous respect for. I yelled at teachers, I yelled at my coaches, I yelled at lots of people … everyone got it. I ended up walking off my job. I ended up quitting track in the middle of the season. Things were coming apart at the seams.
According to Kubler-Ross, anger is the second stage of grief. It has no limits and can cause super unpleasant ripple effects within our lives – it did in mine. At some point, I realized what I was doing wasn’t working. I decided to use the energy from my anger as a basis to organize my life. I directed the energy from my anger towards my academics, using it as fuel to power through school.
I was by no means in the race for Valedictorian, not by any stretch of the imagination. But I knew I would become a high school graduate. Graduating, prior to this moment in my life, was a crap shoot for a variety of reasons.
Knowing that I would graduate from high school was bittersweet. I knew my mom would be proud and that was neat. But I couldn’t help but be saddened by the reality that my father wouldn’t be there. I wondered, at the time, if he would’ve been, had I been a better daughter …
“It is important to feel the anger without judging it, without attempting to find meaning in it. It may take many forms: anger at the health-care system, at life, at your loved one for leaving. Life is unfair. Death is unfair. Anger is a natural reaction to the unfairness of loss.” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross