By Tom Peyton
When my wife died over two years ago, I remember experiencing a gamut of emotions, with anger being the most prominent. Angry that I was now a Widower; angry that an illness ended my wife’s life and our almost 30-year marriage. Angry at the doctors, who I thought could have done more to help her. Angry at God and mad at anyone who would utter that trite phrase,” She’s in a better place? Anger is one of those emotions that, like grief, doesn’t go away, but you learn to deal with it.
Thanks to my grief counselor, I have been handling my emotions well, and anger usually does not show its ugly head often. However, when I checked my mailbox the other day, anger returned roaringly. It had me in its grip for several hours, and I just could not let it go. Like grief, it was holding me hostage, and it took a lot of work to undo the feelings I was experiencing.
Let me explain what caused my anger. I have some relatives that I hear from every few years. I have a cousin I had been close with in the past, but so much in recent years. When my wife died, she did call to express her sympathy and sent a fruit basket. Since we last spoke, I have not heard from her for over 25 months.
When I checked my mailbox the other day, I found a large envelope with an invitation to her daughter’s wedding in October of this year. The envelope was addressed to Mr. Thomas Peyton and guest. I saw red; I became so angry and wanted to throw the envelope into my garbage can. I thought; How dare they send me an invitation and address it to Thomas Peyton and guest? I know my wife died, and they would not address it with her name on it. I just found it at the time tactless and cold. I thought they knew nothing about what I was going through. I guess they think I moved on. Found someone new? So, send him an invitation for him and his new person?
I was so bothered by that invitation I called my grief counselor. He let me ramble and did not say a word as I ranted about my thoughtless, cold, indifferent, and brainless relatives. After my tirade, I paused and said, “Are you listening to what I just shared? Am I right to be angry? He waited for what seemed a long time and said STOP, Tom! Ask yourself: What am I mad about? What has you so upset? I said they made me angry because it seems to me they just discarded my wife, Diane,
He then said; No, You are angry because your wife Diane died. They know she died, but they don’t see what you are going through and how certain actions can trigger your anger. You are still dealing with anger: anger about her death, anger with doctors, anger with God, and just anger about your loss.
What you need to do is take time and address your anger. You may not be able to do it right away. It will take time to deal with it and will require work on your part. Like grief, it’s an emotion that will pop up at unexpected times, and others don’t know what you are going through. Your relatives may have been reaching out to you not to hurt your feelings but to invite you to celebrate an important event in their daughter’s life with them. They wanted you to be part of the celebration. They are not saying or implying you have moved on but maybe you what to bring someone with you, male or female. It’s just a gesture to welcome you.
Try, my grief counselor said to look at the larger picture. Don’t see things from your limited perspective. Open your eyes to the whole picture. Realize that friends and relatives often miscommunicate about death because they don’t know what to say or how to say it in a way that can help. The intention is good; it’s the presentation that is weak. I am looking at the invitation differently so I can weigh my decision. Anger is still holding me back, but I am listening to my grief counselor and remain open to another perspective.
Being open, I think, is one of the keys to moving forward.
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