As loss becomes more reality than surrealist thought experiment, the pain creeps in. The physical pain is fleeting, but the emotional pain sneaks up, inches in through cracks you can’t see until it flows out at some inopportune moment. For me, this is usually at work, where I will spend the next two weeks (okay, maybe it’s more like a month) trying to keep my cool. I will alternately want to fly into a near homicidal rage, laugh like a maniac, or weep like a tiny, lost little girl. Mostly, I will be angry at everything for no explicable reason. The cost of maintaining some semblance of sanity is usually a build up of stress that physically manifests as a migraine and enough tension in my shoulders to raise them to ear level even when I’m “relaxed.”
I have so far not discovered any magic bullets for dissipating the anger, and I’m sure that dealing with it and moving on is part of the process. I just wish I could short-circuit this part. I don’t like who I am during this phase; I have a mean streak that turns vicious, and I pick stupid fights. I have amazing command of four letter words you can’t say on television (that part is mostly in my head). The worst part to me is that I tend to dump a lot of that frustration on my husband, which is wrong in so many ways. Although we feel it differently, I know he’s hurting and disappointed, too, and he’s trying with all his heart to support me, even when I’m this prickly. As an armchair psychologist, I think anger is the easiest emotion to give in to, and it’s the hardest one to get out of because it’s less vulnerable than the raw pain and disappointment. I have vowed to deal with this miscarriage at least a little differently; if nothing else, I am trying desperately not to punish my husband for something beyond our control. I’d like to conquer the anger before it conquers me this time.
This will seem like a ridiculous comparison, but the story is a little funny if you have ever met our cat Clarence. In the animal kingdom, injuries and wounds are seen as weaknesses to be exploited by other animal further up the food chain, so most animals will mask an injury to avoid becoming someone else’s dinner. In one of the more hilarious examples of this behavior, our cat pulled a muscle while playing with one of the dogs. The second he hurt his leg, Clarence started hissing and slapping at anything close by (the other cat, my husband, the bed spread…). Every time he moved the injured leg, he hissed or growled, even if there was no other animal in the room. Of course, we laughed after we checked him thoroughly and he was given a clean bill of health from the vet, but it’s not so funny to realize that I am doing the exact same thing right now. It will be hilarious in a few months when I can laugh at this, but right now it’s entirely frustrating and embarrassing.
Unlike my cat, I have tried various methods of dealing with the anger. One of the most physical outlets is the punching bag in my basement. I don’t feel the need to put anyone’s picture on it; just punching the crap out of something is extremely satisfying, and the physical exhaustion releases a lot of the shoulder tension. While deep breathing and meditation techniques are helpful, they’re not completely practical in the heat of the moment. Maybe when I can perform the Half Lotus Toe Balance pose without using my backside for balance, I will have developed the meditation skills necessary for anger eradication. This is unlikely to happen in my lifetime. The two things I do best are write and retreat. If I stop and write the feelings down, I acknowledge them, and I have time to think about why I am really angry. I am slowly learning to let it go once it has been expressed; otherwise, I run around like a crazed duelist demanding satisfaction. Letting go is not easy, so my other option is retreat. Maybe I’m just tired, or getting older, but I have found no shame in retreat. A time of escapism is an occasional necessity. Books and television, even Facebook and Farmville, provide temporary distractions that can help you start going through the motions in other parts of life. I have to be careful that this doesn’t turn into all out antisocial behavior.
This is likely to be somewhat controversial, but it has been my reality: I haven’t always been able to turn to Bible study or prayer to combat the anger and frustration; sometimes it has only added insult to injury. This is not to say that my faith hasn’t underpinned my entire journey, but there are verses that cannot be explained away that still give me fits. I have also experienced that a lot of modern Bible studies either lack the depth to truly address errant emotions, or they refuse to acknowledge that doubt is part of everyday existence. I read through a Bible study book devoted to mothers who lost children at infancy or through miscarriage that provided so many contradictions and shallow expressions of loss that I would never recommend a study like that to another grieving mother. That’s one reason I keep going back to solid writers like Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis and Oswald Chambers. I prefer straight shooters, even if the subject material is difficult; I may not like the answer, but I can deal with truth. Fluff, not so much.
While I’m not disciplined enough to study like I should, I try to read several chapters of the Bible every day. Right now, I will be reading through Psalms over and over again. I have two favorite things to do while I study a psalm. One is to rewrite the psalm in my own words and in my own situation. A lot of psalms were written by David while he was under siege – I am not facing death by homicidal king or advancing army, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t hear my prayers. The other is to take a psalm and turn it into a madlib. We did this a few times in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at church. It may feel a little sacrilegious at first, but here’s the point I shared with our ESL students: the Bible is applicable to our daily lives, the psalms are a great format to use for prayers, and God certainly has a sense of humor, or we wouldn’t be able to laugh.