The anger arrived three days after my daughter died.
I sat in my hospital bed staring down at my arms. Purple and swollen from blown out veins and the IVs and tubes that saved my life. My skin, mottled and ugly, bearing the bruises of my battle with death.
The battle that I only half won.
I survived, but she did not.
There was so much anger.
I found that the bruising on my arms was much easier to take in than the gentle platitudes being forced upon me. I did not want to hear how lucky I was to be alive. I did not want to hear that she was in a better place.
I just wanted to scream for everyone to shut the fuck up.
But, instead, I swallowed my screams. I swallowed my anger. But instead of disappearing inside of me, they churned and raged. I felt the anger sitting in my stomach–hot and dangerous.
A nurse scanned my arm musing about where they should move my IV. “Maybe you could put it in the part of my arm where my veins are still intact,” I remarked.
I heard a smug laugh from the corner. A doctor that I did not particularly care for looked up from the clipboard she carried like a shield.
“My, my.” she muttered loud enough for everyone to hear, “We must be feeling better. You’re awfully cranky today.”
My face flushed with red, hot rage that I fought to keep under my skin. I felt like the anger was going to burn me. I felt like it was my only choice to let it sear me from the inside. It did not feel like an option to let it out.
They wanted me to take a walk. They told me a change of scenery would help.
“It’s time to get up out of that bed. There’s a garden in the courtyard outside of the Oncology wing that might be nice to visit.”
The anger bubbled up inside of me. I wanted to tell them it was a stupid suggestion. It didn’t matter where I was–my daughter was dead everywhere. Unless it was a magical garden, I didn’t really see the point.
But, I said none of those things. I simply nodded and let the anger smother me.
I didn’t think I had a right to be angry. It was no one’s fault that my baby died. I was still alive. I thought anger would seem ungrateful. I thought keeping my anger subdued was a sign of strength. I was ashamed at how angry I felt.
Mike wheeled me out of the room. Maybe I could better ignore my anger somewhere else. Maybe anywhere was better than sitting in that room and suffocating in my anger.
As we wandered with nowhere to go, we passed a large window facing that ridiculous garden. I stared through the glass, trying so desperately to tamp down the fury pulsing through my veins. I couldn’t stand the sight of anything beautiful when my world was destined to be so ugly. I wanted to smash through that window and I wanted that garden destroyed. So much anger.
Mike bent over my shoulder and whispered into my ear. “I want to rip up every single plant in that fucking garden.”
I turned to face him, feeling a combination of relief and surprise.
He was angry too. I saw it in his eyes, he was so incredibly enraged at the pain we were living in. I was not alone in my anger. He was there too.
We had every right to be angry. Having your baby die sucks.
I looked at him, my eyes brimming with angry tears.
“I hate that garden. I hate being here.” I whispered. “I hate all of this.”
The anger surged, but this time I did not try harness it. I just let it rise up, all purple and splotchy. Right there in the hospital corridor I let myself I let it stain me. All that anger was okay.
You get to be angry when your baby dies.
You get to rage against a world where your baby no longer lives. You get to scream at the unfairness of it all. You are allowed to be angry.
Please let yourself feel the anger.
It will not go away. The anger you are feeling over your baby’s death needs a release. If you do not release it on your own, if you do not let off that steam building up, the anger will explode.
What happened to my own anger?
The anger is still there. There will always be anger that I have to live without my baby. Anger at the dreams that have been compromised. There are still bubbles of anger when I hear platitudes and when others try to dictate my grief.
The difference is that I no longer feel like it needs to be pushed down.
I have given myself permission to be angry. When I give the anger space, it no longer rages up inside of me demanding to be acknowledged.
I am allowed to be angry that my baby died.
The anger I feel is always somewhere inside, but it is now mingled with layers of other emotions. Every layer, its own color, woven together with the deep purple of the anger that exists when you’ve experienced a loss so deep.