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Question of the Month
I feel such a sense of anger and rage that I've never felt before. As the days and week go by, it seems to get worse. Every little thing annoys and I want to explode. I don't know how to work through this anger. How can I cope?

Ann DouglasFrom Ann Douglas . . .

The emotions that you are experiencing are perfectly understandable, given what you have been through. Many bereaved mothers tell me that, during those first few weeks or months after the deaths of their babies, they felt angrier than they had in their entire lives. Angry at themselves. Angry at fate. Angry at the universe. Things that wouldn't normally bother them would suddenly have them seething with rage.

The first step in learning to deal with this anger is to accept the way that you're feeling. You may be feeling "ripped off" because you did everything within your power to increase your odds of giving birth to a healthy baby and yet you still weren't rewarded with the outcome you had expected. Or you may feel angry at your body for "betraying" you -- an irrational feeling, I know, but one that it is very, very common in women who have experienced the death of a baby. You may also feel very angry at others in your life: family members who dare to go on with their lives (something that may feel like a slap in the face to you if you're still deeply immersed in your grief) or friends who take their children for granted (or, even worse, who have the nerve to complain to you about the fact that their baby kept them up all night -- losing sight of the fact that you would give anything to have a baby to keep you up all night).

Once you've acknowledged your anger, you can take steps to deal with it. If you're not already going for grief counselling, you might want to consider taking that step because it will give you a safe outlet to express the anger that you're feeling. You might also want to ensure that you're taking good care of yourself physically: something as simple as exercising regularly and reducing your caffeine intake can leave you feeling better equipped to deal with the anger that you're feeling.

You won't always feel this angry. Over time, as the rawness of your grief begins to subside, you'll find joy in your life again. In the meantime, don't let anyone try to tell you that the anger that you're feeling is "wrong." You have every right to feel the way you are feeling. It's all part of the grieving process.

Ann Douglas

Marilyn HeavilinMarilyn Heavilin

Anger . . . the gift that keeps on giving . . . it also keeps on appearing. I do believe that grief can create a rage and anger within in us that cannot be compared to anything else. I have no idea of your history or your story, so I can only share with you from my personal experience. When two of my babies died within 18 months, I was filled with rage like I had never known before. I lashed out at my remaining children, walked out of social situations after angry outbursts, locked myself in my room, and refused to speak to others for days.

In my book When Your Dreams Die, I write that for me I had to Face It, Trace It, and Erase It. First I had to face the anger. I realized I could easily become out of control. I called friends and I asked for help. I told them I was afraid to be alone with my children. I didn't want to scar them emotionally for the rest of their lives.

Then I had to trace the root of my anger. Of course, I was angry because my children had died. I was angry because other people still had their babies and I didn't. I was angry at God because I felt He had let me down. I believed bad things weren't supposed to happen to good people and I was a "good people." I was angry at friends who I felt had not supported me in the way I needed to be supported. I was angry at me because I must have failed as a parent.

For me, I erased some of the anger by going through a process of forgiveness. To me, forgiveness is the process of releasing myself from the responsibility of seeking vengeance. Forgiveness does not release anyone else from wrongs they have committed, but forgiveness can set me free. The most major forgiving I had to do was to forgive myself and to forgive God, because from my point of view, He blew it.

Has all of my anger dissipated? No, but a lot of it has. Obviously, in these few paragraphs, I am trying to cover what it takes me several chapters to cover in my books. A simple answer to you would be, first realize that your anger and rage is not abnormal. However, it is still important that you share your concerns with a professional and with friends you can trust. If you ever fear you might hurt yourself or others, get help immediately. Take time to analyze who you are really angry at and then consider what you can do to release yourself from those emotions.

I would like to talk to the author who penned, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." He obviously had not met a mother who has lost her child.

Much love, Marilyn Heavilin

Sherokee IlseSherokee Ilse

Anger is not something most of us, especially women, have been taught to express well. In fact, it is often discouraged and deemed "inappropriate." Good for you that you recognize you are angry. Many of us have had to do lots of work to get "there." After my son Brennan died I never admitted to feeling anger. One year after the birth/death, I had my first massage. The therapist barely touched me and then suddenly said, "Are you angry about something?" I burst into tears. How did she know I was angry when I didn't even know I was angry? After that I was at least able to own some of those angry feelings, just a few, for just a little while.

Why wouldn't we be angry? Why shouldn't we be angry? Our baby has died. How unfair and darn rotten! So now what to do with those feelings and what not to do with those feelings . . .

  • Don't hurt yourself or others
  • Don't take it out on yourself or others.
  • Don't wonder what's wrong with you - it's normal and natural to have those and other intense feelings.
  • Don't think it will just go away or get better

What to do?

  • Find a safe outlet for those feelings such as an understanding friend.
  • Write in a journal, play music (can you play some loud, hard, even frantic piece?)
  • If you feel the need to get it out physically, use a punching bag, a pillow or other safe item to hit.
  • Scream in a closet or someplace safe (and soundproof?)
  • Tell your partner and close family and friends, "I am really angry about my baby's death. You will find that I am annoyed easily. That is where I am today. Please don't take it personally, but do let me vent. I don't mean to hurt you . . . but I do need to do something with these feelings." Of course, use your own words to express your own feelings. These are just suggestions.
  • If the anger goes on too long, scares you or you can't seem to find a healthy way to express it, call a therapist. This can be a safe place express yourself. They should be used to hearing about people's anger at the tragedies of life.

Remember, you are not going crazy . . . you are a normal, hurting human. Get over feeling bad or guilty and now work on dealing with it, venting it and moving through it. Over time and with work you will feel better, just maybe not now.

Best wishes and lots of love and hugs, Sherokee Ilse

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