Once I went to confession and the priest told me that my anger was like a wild dog that was chained to a tree and barked wildly at anyone who got near it. At the time I sat there looking at Father with a blank stare because I had no idea what to even do with that statement.
The day of my Tio’s funeral in my hometown I decided that I would walk from the Church where we had our family meal after the Mass and graveside services since it was only a block away from my Tio’s house where I was staying. I had walked this entire town for most of my childhood and wanted the fresh air. As I took off down a back road a crazy dog showing his teeth came running up on me barking only to be jerked back by his chain. This made me think of what Father had said to me about my anger and gave me a visual to attach to what he said but still, I didn’t quite get it.
Today, I get it. I am so mad. At the root of that anger is pain. The pain of my childhood, of my broken relationship with my mother, of the lies that people tell themselves and others about me to make themselves look and feel better about the awful things they did to me (and to Anthony as in the case with his biological father) and for always being left to take care of myself. I am also angry at how all of my own hurts caused the death of my son.
That anger makes me run up on people who are just walking by like that dog did to me on my walk after Tio’s funeral. Or even worse, my anger lashes out at people who are just trying to help me, even if they are fumbling at doing it.
Grief is an asshole. There is no right thing to say to me. And saying something or not saying something hurts because life hurts. Talking about Anthony hurts and not talking about him hurts. Waking up hurts. And pain makes my anger worse and then the anger makes my pain worse. It’s a horrible cycle.
During that confession Father said to me that it was time for me to take the wild dog that is my anger. Since I had no real idea what he meant by that, I just shrugged it off. A few weeks ago I spoke to the same priest about my grief and he gave me solid advice on real concrete things to do.
One of them was to find an outlet for my anger like exercise. So I started working out and it is helping so much. I have nothing to lose so i don’t even care if I look horrible in front of everyone. I just need to let out steam and I do!
Second is to spend 5 minutes in prayer even if it is to tell God off or to say nothing at all to him. I have been doing that too. In the middle of rage cleaning, I ended up with a prayer closet. An extra desk ended up fitting in there perfectly and I out my extra Catechism, Divine Office and white board in there and suddenly I had a prayer closet. God is hilarious.
Third is to find a support group. This is my least favorite piece of advice. But I’m going to try it anyway and begin next Thursday. It just so happens that a support group for suicide loss began in the town north of me where Anthony is buried. Just deciding to go has helped.
All three of these things plus going to confession and Mass this past week have lifted a huge weight off me and I feel as if the wild dog that is my anger is a bit tamer and calmer.
Yesterday someone who I have had an ongoing issue with sent me harassing messages online and I stayed calm, didn’t lash out and didn’t insult her back and I just walked away from the whole thing rather than argue and exchange hurtful words. I also allowed myself to admit that her insults hurt me. I never would have done that before. I would have let my anger rule my actions. Instead i realized that something awful had to have happened to her for her to treat another person that way, the same as something awful happened to me that has me treating people that way. That made me feel compassion for her and also gave me the wisdom to walk away from it entirely.
I can only control myself, my words, my actions. What I am choosing to control today is that angry dog.