August 12, 2009

We are trying to move into our new place.  Which is, in spite of our talks with our new landlord, still not really ready to house human beings.  This is frustrating, and I am frustrated.

N, however, is really angry.  In this case, I’d like to shield our landlord from it, at least a little, so that we don’t end up homeless at the beginning of the fall semester in a college town.  There are better times, truly, to go apartment hunting.

Plus, I really love our new place, even though it’s currently dirty, the refrigerator and stove are temporarily in the living room, the downstairs carpet needs cleaning, the ceiling vent in the bathroom is a gaping hole, there’s painting and cleaning paraphernalia everywhere, and there are nuts, bolts, and screws covering the kitchen counters.  It still has wood floors, a basement, a big yard, and three bedrooms – all things we really, really like.  When we’re not tearing our hair out.

Some things I can do.  I can clean (but only in well-ventilated spaces, my doctor’s office told me after I called today to double-check), and/or hire cleaners.  I can try to talk with the landlord about what we need done in the next few days so that we can move in.  What I can’t seem to do is deal with N’s anger.

I feel like I’m lacking in some sort of essential human skill, like I’m completely uneducated and clueless in this regard.  My default is to go quiet and wait for it to blow over (worked when I was small and Mom or Dad was angry), but this is failing both of us.  He feels isolated and I feel useless.  And why am I so scared of anger?  I know he will never hurt me, so it’s not that, but there’s something in me that really dreads and fears angry words, angry thoughts, angry actions.

Feeding this anger, is, of course, this particular month and the upcoming dates that mark a year of loss.  I know this, and he knows this.  But his anger likes a direct target (like a landlord), unlike mine which goes howling after God, the universe, whatever it is that allows babies to die and ordinary people to be wiped out by mudslides and tsunamis.  I don’t know how to react to his anger; I don’t want to nurture it, but I want to acknowledge it, let him express it, to listen and not leave him out in the cold.

How does one do that?



  1. I haven’t truly got this one worked out yet. My anger is like yours – it has been present from the start and is squarely aimed at God/the universe/whatever kills babies in this big old world. My husband’s is recent and was very uncomfortable for both of us. He isn’t an angry person at all and just didn’t know how to channel it. All I could do was say, “I know you’re angry. I don’t understand your anger but I respect your right to feel that way.” It didn’t resolve the anger but it eased the pressure on us. We also talked about it together in the presence of our counsellor. Her presence helped to diffuse it, make it something external.

  2. I think we’re the opposite. I like someone (like the idiot at our bank’s call centre) to take it out on. Simon just feels angry at the universe, God, whoever. And I know I take far too much of it out on innocent friends and family. But I just can’t help it. Feeling the loss with you in the next few days, Erica. I wonder what it feels like once you reach the other side? Guess we’ll know soon.

  3. When we first lost Craig, his anger was frightening. Any little thing could set him off. I was scared to let him out of the apartment by himself in case he would explode at something, anything! I held myself together for a number of months. By the time his anger had cooled mine was in full swing. Then it was his turn to calm me down. But his anger scared me too. I didn’t know how I could stop him. Of course I couldn’t. Stop him, I mean. I just tried to focus him and direct his anger away from people.

  4. And of course that first sentence is meant to read, “When we first lost Kees, Craig’s anger was frightening”. sorry!

  5. My husband is similar. He’s become so much angrier since we lost Charlotte. Road rage, in particular. I haven’t figured out either how to acknowledge it without encouraging him. It’s all so different and foreign, I hate it.

  6. I found your blog through Glow in the Woods, and I’ve been reading for a bit but haven’t commented.

    This sounds so familiar to me, and it’s so hard. My husband’s response to any kind of physical or emotional pain is anger and I feel just the way you do. Sometimes I can help him by just repeating back to him what is making him angry – yes, the landlord is being inconsiderate by not having the place ready when it should have been – and then immediately presenting a solution – but we can hire cleaners and talk to the landlord about what needs to be done. Sometimes we can talk about it and he can acknowledge that he is being irrationally angry because he’s in pain. Sometimes.

    His anger is directed at me sometimes too, and I’ve also had to mediate interactions between him and some of our friends and family members (who are mostly understanding). I do think it helps both him and, in the case of myself and our friends/family, the target of his anger to acknowledge that the anger has something to do with the loss.

    But I don’t really have any words of wisdom for you either, just a lot of compassion and understanding. I’ve been (and continue to be) there too. Feel free to email me if I can help you just by listening.

  7. anger is a tough one.

    Sounds like he is angry about lots of things, and it is just really coming out with the state of the house. But anger probably won’t help that situation.

    And, it is his anger, that he needs to work on. I don’t know what the right answer is, but I am thinking that you can calmly say “I can’t handle when you are this angry. I want to help, but I need to walk out of the room right now”

    Hope it gets straightened out in a jiffy!

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