The anger-sadness balance

On New Year’s day I sat on my couch, scrolling through my old facebook posts. I was looking for my New Years post from the previous year as a comparison to how I felt this year. A year ago I thought I had been through the biggest rollercoaster of my life- finding out I was pregnant, learning about Mabel’s Down Syndrome, embracing and preparing to raise a child with special needs and then learning my baby’s birth defects might not be compatible with life. It was, at the time, the worst year of my life. I was unsure how 2014 would turn out and low and behold it turned out to be worse. Some beautiful moments- the birth of my daughter followed by the darkest, her death and the grieving that came with.

In my scrolling, I came up across the posting about her birth and death. In reading the words I had written and gazing at the photos above them, I was struck by sadness. I couldn’t believe that it all had actually happened. That I actually had a baby. That she actually lived. That there was a moment when she had been placed, warm and goopy on my belly just seconds after birth. That she lay quite still on a warmer, struggling to breathe despite numerous tubes and interventions. That we actually had to tell the doctors that we were ready- ready to let her die. That she actually died. That we actually buried her.

Tears ran down my cheeks. Wanting to really let myself really feel the sadness, I then pulled up the video I had made:

I cried and I cried. I also cried because I realized how long it had been since I cried like that. I have just been so angry, there hasn’t been any room in me for sad. I know more sad is needed, but I can’t seem to force it. So how do I do it? How do I balance anger and sadness? How do you?

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29 thoughts on “The anger-sadness balance

  1. I too struggle with connecting with the sadness that fuels all the other emotions that live closer to the surface… I have really short videos of Paul and they help me truly feel he was actually here with us.
    The video you made for Mabel is so so beautiful. So sad but also full of the light that you surrounded your daughter with.

  2. I’m so impressed you were able to watch the video. I took a lot of short videos on my son’s last day, but I still can’t bring myself to watch them! That said, I rewatched your video because the first time I watched it, I had just “met” you. And I sobbed! And now I want to make my own. What program did you use?

  3. Anger is so much easier than sadness. I too find myself more angry than sad most of the time. I often think to myself too, did any of it really happen? I could write for days on this topic because it sometimes consumes me.

  4. I still have a lot of anger. A lot. I’m getting better at not exploding on people, but it is still there. It doesn’t rule my life like it used to, and that is thanks to something my therapist asked me to do. She said that whenever I’m angry, to sit with it but then look underneath at the underlying emotion, because anger is usually not a primary emotion. This has helped so much. Many times I’m feeling jealous, annoyed, depressed, but a few choice times it really helped me get to the sadness and let that out instead of pushing it down. This helped especially the day after Ramona’s birthday, Christmas day. Watching cars drive by our house, traveling to celebrate Christmas day with loved ones while we watched Star Wars really got to me, and that’s when I was able to just feel sad. Sad for Ramona, sad for all the other families in our same position.

    Sadness is simultaneously draining and renewing. Crying is so exhausting but letting it out feels good once it’s done. It’s hard to really let go when people day things like ‘she’d want you to be happy,’ but sadness is just a part of grieving. You’ll get there. You’ll find what works for you and it won’t be balanced all the time, but it will start to even out the majority of the time. I never thought it would but despite all the additional challenges life is presenting to me, I do feel more balanced.

    • So true, it is brutal when people say “your child would want you to be happy” at a time when you’re upset… Like, great, now I can also feel like I’m failing my child by being unhappy, AND like I shouldn’t have shared my feelings in the first place. I know it’s well-intentioned, but in the wrong moment that can be a very hard comment to cope with.

    • thank you so much for sharing this- makes me feel so much less alone in my anger- which not only just feels bad to feel, but can feel isolating. It’s a hard emotion for to others to process. others prefer us to be sad, they can hug us and wipe away our tears. they dont know what to do with our anger. I think with Mabel’s birthday coming up, my anger is renewed- as I’m sure yours was with Ramona- especially with her birthday so close to the holidays. I totally agree with the “she’d want you to…” frustration! I often respond “i dont know what she’d want. I didnt get the chance to really know her!” it’s my defense to those who want to skim over my feelings- I sometimes just want to feel what I feel! I judge myself enough, dont need others to do the same!

  5. If I don’t give myself enough time to be sad, I get very anxious and uncomfortable, and I tend to get migraines and have nightmares and trouble sleeping. It’s kind of my version of anger, I think. But if I allow myself more time to cry it out (especially by looking back at pictures, posts, etc), that helps me be less anxious, sleep better, etc. I still need to cry most days of the week, if not every day. I don’t always do that, but I should. It’s hardest because I have a very difficult time crying in front of other people, so I need enough alone time – but, not too much!! If I feel that I’m not crying enough, I plan to try to cry a lot while I’m at therapy… Or, I give myself time to journal or just look through pictures.

    • I think I might need to look more at pictures to really trigger the sadness. SOmetimes its hard to find it. As someone who has always been a crier, this anger is foreign to me and I’m lost in what to do with it!

      • Ugh, today I am angry – about someone acting insensitively and selfishly. But he got very defensive when I began to bring it up, and I ended up feeling worse. Need to punch some pillows and scream!! I do not like being angry, it is not fun.

  6. I think my anger and sadness are rolled up into one now. Ever since I started being angry, it just jumped on the back of the sad so I feel them together all the time. (I’d rather just be sad, I think.)

  7. I feel so honored to have watched your precious video of you and Chris with Mabel. It was exquisitely beautiful. I saw in those 2 dimensional photos, a mother who knew her daughter intimately, better than many parents who are gifted entire lifetimes of getting to know their child. Thank you so much for sharing it here. Mabel was so beautiful.

    Anger can be such a powerfully dominant emotion. It can also be motivating…, or paralyzing. For me, my anger does sometimes drive my sorrow to the periphery. But most times I’m feeling them simultaneously. I have no advice for managing the balance… I say just ride the waves and indulge whatever emotion you feel welling up. When you feel sorrow taking hold, allow it, make time and space for it. Otherwise, I worry about the long term damage of submerging

    • thank you for such kind words! anger is so dominant. and yes- it can have such different effects. sometimes it’s helpful for functioning, and sometimes it’s paralyzing, just like you said!

  8. I think the anger is the top layer of the sadness. Anger feels powerful, sadness feels powerless. So we hang out in the anger because it’s just too scary to go down below. I’ve heard lots of advice over the years about trying to see the good, and believing that all things happen for a reason. I don’t think that’s true. Some things are just broken. It can’t be fixed, it can’t be made right, and it isn’t a blessing. It’s just pain. I think accepting that feels horrific, but then it feels freeing. For me, once I stopped trying to fix it or make the best of it I got better. I accepted that this little part of me would always be broken, would always hurt, and that’s ok.

    • ooo, such good words. Anger feels powerful, sadness feels powerless. There’s a lot of truth in that. It’s an amazing thing accepting the unfixable. Something I’m clearly working on.

    • More on-topic – to me, anger requires energy, which I just don’t seem to have. I haven’t felt angry about many other things since either. Nothing seems important enough to trigger anger in me. Writing often helped getting my sadness to the surface, as well as some music. Maybe kickboxing would help with anger…

      • fascinating look at anger- it does require energy, that’s for sure. and grief can be so darn tiring sometimes there isnt room for anger. I think if nothing triggers anger for you, that’s fine- we put so much pressure on ourselves to grieve in a certain way. I’m trying to accept, I am where I am.

    • THank you! I am so grateful so many people witnessed her short life. I still wanted to parade her around the hospital after she died, to show more people she was real, but of course I was worried about how I would be perceived- the crazy lady showing off her dead baby to her coworkers. Sad that I worried about how I would look to others even as I held my dead daughter in my arms.

  9. My anger is mostly directed at her father, he abandoned us during the pregnancy, so I was sad and scared and cried most of the time I carried her. I am angry at God that after all the suffering I went through being a single pregnant woman, He too didnt take pity on us. Now ex and new girlfriend are as happy as can be expecting their new bundle of joy soon, and I bet you she is going to arrive alive and screaming and cute, while I go tend to my girl’s grave in the cemetery alone. Its the unfairness of it all! Sorry for hijacking your post with my anger..I will go stick a knife through something now.

    • aye, that adds such another layer to grief- talk about complicated grief. I’m so sorry you had to deal with a such a difficult social situation during the loss of your daughter and now your ex is expecting. So much justified anger! I’m angry for you!

  10. Great post Meghan. It definitely is a balance, and I don’t know that you actually can balance it. I feel like we go through periods of both, sometimes concurrently, OR even better, one leads into the other. Often times, when I let myself think about it I will be sad and then it will grow into anger – anger that someone so loved and so wanted would be taken away……. and commence Life’s not fair tantrum 🙂
    Is there room for all the love in your heart for Mabel when you revisit these things? Its like its there but sometimes invisible unless we make it a point to remember – after all is said and done we still LOVE with everything we have and thats why we get so angry and so sad. *hugs*

    • the anger and sadness are so mixed together. SOmetimes its simply easier to be angry. ANd easier to shout “life’s not fair!” (it isnt! really!) but they are totally connected.

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