Have you ever opened a bottle or can of Dr. Pepper that’s been shaken, even just slightly? Have you then gone looking for wet paper towels or a mop, or just gone to stand in the shower so you can remove all the syrupy stickiness with which you have been coated due to the ensuing explosion? Kindly hang on to that mental picture as we proceed.
It was a morning or two after his death that her kids walked into the living room and just stopped. Everything was everywhere and nothing was in its place. Throw pillows had been thrown, couch cushions had been scattered . . . if it wasn’t nailed down then it was fair game. They looked at her in fear and astonishment and started to ask, “Mama, what in the . . .” and she stopped them cold. “I don’t want to hear it. Don’t you say one single word about it. I’ve fussed at your daddy all night long.”
And fussed she had. He had known something was wrong. He had known he needed to go to the doctor because of the symptoms he was having. But fear overcame common sense. He assured everyone that he was fine; he assured everyone they shouldn’t worry. Then she came home and found the ultimate proof that he was wrong. So on that night she had yelled at him and lashed out at him and thrown everything she could in every possible direction, until she was worn and spent and beyond exhausted.
Every day thereafter she went to the cemetery. And every day she stood at his grave and yelled at him. And when the venting was done she would tell him about all that happened the day before. It was a cycle that repeated itself over and over and over, but it was also the cycle that allowed her to keep her sanity.
I know there is a word to describe the depth of her feelings. I just don’t know what that word is. Mad doesn’t seem to do them justice. Neither does angry. Or even frustrated or livid or irate. Perhaps furious . . . but as I think about it, I’m coming to the conclusion there isn’t a word in the English language to adequately describe the anger that boils up inside of those who are left behind when Death comes to call under circumstances such as hers. Its strength and depth defy description.
A friend of mine heard her story and woefully observed, “You know that’s not healthy, right?” Oh, but I beg to differ—and I quickly did. Her anger is so strong that the failure to release it could be devastating. Which brings me to my Dr. Pepper analogy. As I told my friend, to have that much anger inside, and to keep it inside, is the equivalent of putting a cork in a bottle and then shaking it for all you’re worth. Eventually, the pressure will build to a point that the cork will go flying across the room or, at the very least, bounce off the ceiling—and the resulting mental and emotional mess will be everywhere.
It’s natural to be angry when Death comes, especially if he comes unexpectedly, claiming those who are young or in seemingly good health, or those who fall prey to tragic accidents or circumstances they could have prevented. If we aren’t mad at the person who died then we’re mad at the universe or its Creator. Whatever the focus of our anger, that anger has to be expressed. To push it down and refuse to acknowledge it is a recipe for disaster. Not only will the resulting words and actions hurt the people closest to us, but that unresolved anger will eat away at our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Only by letting it out will we eventually be able to let it go.