The Angry Dog

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.

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12 thoughts on “The Angry Dog

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This post resonated with me more than you can imagine. Grief IS an asshole, and here we are duking it our. Much love to you my sister in grief.

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  2. One sentence in this jumps out at me. Your pain did not cause Anthony’s death. Of course he was in pain, and you probably had something to do with that, but YOU did not cause his death. Don’t put that on yourself.

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  3. I really do know that I didn’t cause his death but my own wounds from my abuse made me the mother I was to him and made me open to being treated the way i was by men and he saw it and that caused HIM a lot of wounds. That’s what I meant.!

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  4. No, he was sick. I know I made a lot of mistakes and I own those mistakes but a lot of moms make mistakes and their kids don’t commit suicide. I know his suicide is not my fault while still taking responsibility for the things that were my fault.

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  5. Dear Leticia,

    I HAD to respond to this blog entry because the coincidence of what happened to me this past Sunday is just too high. I’m not on any kind of social media but I have been following your blog for the past year and four months…I first heard about you on the Jennifer Fulwiler Show. Your story has really touched me deeply and you are constantly in my prayers. I think that one of the main reasons I was so affected by your son Anthony’s suicide is that he looks a lot like my brothers and me. Being Mexican American has something to do with it but there is just a certain something in his eyes and expression that reminds me of my family. It’s not that we look exactly the same, it’s just that in many of the pictures you shared of Anthony, I see myself and my brothers…he had very soulful and deep eyes and I think I share that same characteristic. Maybe you yourself wouldn’t think so but I swear there’s something there. And I also struggle with depression, not as severely as Anthony did, so I have a special compassion for anybody else who fights with that beast. I have thought about and prayed for you and Anthony quite often. I say these things to give you an idea as to why I carry you and your son in my heart in a special way.

    So anyways, I was at Mass this past Sunday and I was sitting by the statue of St. Anthony like I do every Sunday. I’ve seen it hundreds of times but this past Sunday I was fixated on the image of the wolf that appears over the head of St. Anthony. Most of the time I forget it’s even there; it’s a carved wooden image of a wolf in remembrance of the famous “Brother Wolf” St. Anthony story. I was regarding the image when I heard, not exactly a voice, but some kind of inner spoken statement in my mind that said, when looking at the wolf….”That is Leticia.” I felt, in a muted way, a lot of your anger at God, the Church, and the world in general, and I clearly saw you as the wolf, as crazy as it sounds. I felt that there might be some kind of message or help for you in the story of St. Anthony and Brother Wolf.

    I am not one to say “Oh, God is speaking to me” so I just put the thought away. I honestly don’t know if this was just my imagination or if it was from the Holy Spirit, or an angel, or St. Francis, but I NEVER would have even shared this with you if you hadn’t posted this blog post saying that your priest at confession compared you to an angry dog. I feel safe in sharing this with you now because your priest pretty much said the exact same thing! I think perhaps there is great wisdom here for you. I feel you have the makings of a great saint, don’t give up. I will continue to pray for you, Anthony, and your family. May God continue to bless you.

    Sincerely,

    Your brother in Christ, Daniel

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  6. Ive never heard of that story, but the even crazier thing is how close Anthony was to his dog. I’ve never heard of St. Anthony and the brother wolf, I will have to look it up now. Thank you for sharing.

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  7. Sometimes you hit a pain threshold that just makes you address the pain and its effects in your life, instead of burying or ignoring it. I love the dog analogy and find it very apt.

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  8. Had you on my mind today and thought I’d drop by for a visit. Love and prayers to you and your family, Leticia. 💙

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