Last month, you’ll recall, I took a communication break from the men in my life. My goal was to break my texting dependency. Instead, I learned so much about the feelings I had been avoiding by filling my time and occupying my energy with male attention. As I now sit with these feelings, I reflect on the myriad of emotions that come with getting a divorce.
We’ve all heard of the five stages of grief, and have a general idea that they include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages of grief are often experienced by those going through a divorce as well. There’s no need for me to reinvent the wheel, especially as I couldn’t even if I tried. But I want to share how I navigated some of these feelings. This week, we’ll talk about anger.
Anger is an emotion that family, friends, and coworkers expected me to have. They supposed I’d yell, curse, disparage, sell my ex’s stuff, waste all his time in divorce court, or even set all his personal belongings on fire Angela Bassett style in Waiting to Exhale. They didn’t want this because they’re mean or malicious people. They wanted this because it seemed a justified and understandable reaction for me to have. It's also the emotion many of them felt for me, watching my life change so dramatically. My therapist once told me that anger is a socially acceptable way of expressing more vulnerable emotions like fear, shame, betrayal, or sorrow.
And believe me, I gave in to the anger. Anything that went wrong after my ex left would incite me.
My rent went up, I was mad at my ex.
I had to work on weekends, I was mad at my ex.
My daughter had a poop explosion in a public place, yep, I was mad at my ex.
I couldn’t afford to go to dinner with a friend, you guessed it, I was mad at my ex.
I forgot my umbrella when it rained, well clearly he made it rain.
The nail salon closed before I could get a manicure, he made me late.
Literally, anything that didn’t go my way I blamed on my ex. Did I keep that anger or blame to myself? Of course not. Anger doesn’t work that way. Anger is external, it needs to be released. So I’d fire off a dozen angry text messages. I’d call him, be condescending and rude, and not let him get a word in. I’d scowl, huff and puff, and sigh when I saw him. Sometimes, in the privacy of my own home, I’d even have a FULL-ON tantrum - like throwing pillows, punching the bed, screaming into a pillow, or throwing myself onto the couch.
I was angry. My life was completely out of my control. Things were happening to me that I didn’t want or expect. And they were happening because of an indirect act (that I didn’t deserve) of someone else. Heck yes, I was angry. Yelling and blaming seemed like the only tangible way to let him know that he had completely messed up everything for me.
But did it help? No. Did it make me feel any better? No. Was it healthy? Absolutely not. So after a few weeks of expressing my anger in this way, I made a conscious decision to stop. I decided to let it go. Yes, my life and my journey looked different now. Yes, I was going through a lot of big changes at the same time. Yes, I was sad and scared, and alone. But what I was doing was not working. I was giving my power to heal and thrive over to him. I needed to focus on stabilizing my life, finding my own happiness, and being a present mother to my daughter. It was requiring too much of my energy and attention to stay angry with him. That energy was better spent on my own personal growth. Besides, the bible says “‘vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord”. Not that I wanted my ex to suffer vengeance, but it was just a reminder that it's not my responsibility to avenge any wrongdoings or harbor any anger.
So I stopped focusing on my ex and external occurrences and made a mindful attempt to focus on myself and my daughter. When something unexpected or negative happened, I rolled with it. I’d be frustrated or scared, but I didn’t let that turn into anger. I treated them as events separate from my ex and our divorce. I endeavored to focus more on the positive things that occurred during my day than the negative ones. As time progressed, I found my peace, so negative things and my ex had less impact on my emotional stability.
With that, I was able to move through the anger stage pretty quickly. Letting go and thinking positively helped. How did you deal with your anger?