Channeling Anger

I’ve been asked if I’m angry about your death. I am. I suppose the question came up because the friend who asked hasn’t seen me express it, at least not openly, in it’s unrestrained, torrential state.¬† I’m glad she asked, though. Since then, I’ve been paying more attention to my occasional outbursts, or the slow-building broody weeks that seem to catch me by surprise, with no seemingly outward catalyst.

Yes, there among the myriad emotions and memories and reflections about your illness and death, and my life in the wake, anger exists. And, like most emotions, it doesn’t hold up well to rationale when I’m feeling it full-force. With a little distance, I’ve been able to get some perspective, and have some empathy toward myself. I love this quote by Harriet Lerner: “Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to.”

I’ve noticed that anger is not a predominant aspect of my grief for you (I don’t feel mad at you for dying, for instance), but I definitely get good and angry when I recall some of the circumstances surrounding your death, and the attendant interpersonal and cultural dynamics then, and since. I’m angry with myself for some of my decisions. I’m angry that you suffered so much. I’m angry that our culture shuns and minimizes grief and grievers, and that we consider death itself so¬†unconscionable that we inadvertently harm those we love who are dying. To name but a few.

I sometimes don’t know what to “do” with my grief-anger. It does, occasionally, come out sideways – a sure sign I have some acknowledging to do. Part of the channeling of my anger is this blog – a place to expend the energy, examine the disappointments and expectations that fuel it, and simply to offer it, in honor and love, for you.



A Heroic Narrative for Death

I agree with Amanda Bennett that we need this: a way to think and talk about death as the heroic act it can be, and sometimes is. An accomplishment at the end of a life well-lived. A good death.

I’ve asked myself the very questions she asks in the video that follows: why is our thinking and our system of dealing with serious illness not built to accommodate our tenacious hope? What do we do with the stories of ourselves as fighters, as invincible, as survivors? And not just patients and their families, but medical professionals, too, and maybe especially. Can we embrace a new story, in which, as she describes it, we move eventually toward a “graceful retreat?”

Christine did, and her graceful retreat was every bit as courageous and sublime, as it was painful and heartbreaking. Like Ms. Bennett’s husband, Terence Foley, Kissie was a force of life that few could resist. Though no longer tangible, that force is still very much discernible.

As soon as I watched this video, I wanted to read the book about their story, “The Cost of Hope.” I waited, hesitant about my capacity for reading a vivid recollection about a cancer death so soon. I read it last month, and while it was part-investigative report, it was above all the story of their fierce love of each other, and of life.

In this TED Med talk, Ms. Bennett wonders aloud, and with deeply felt conviction, about a “noble path to dying,” a heroic narrative for letting go that could be the capstone to our beautiful lives.