Of all the emotions associated with grief, anger is the one I have struggled with most. And it’s at its worst when others try to tell me to calm down. I know that they mean well but, as I have discovered throughout this journey, what follows is better out than in.
(Note: I wrote this post whilst in the depths of grief. It’s about my anger and asking people to leave me alone. It’s painful to read but I have kept it just in case somebody else in the same situation finds it helpful to see that it’s all part of the grieving process and that they can get through it too. The irony of insisting that I was ok is not lost on me. Given what has happened since and the therapy I was ‘encouraged’ to have, I was clearly anything but ok.)
I hope that what follows will help to explain where the anger comes from.
- Watching our son shake in so much pain that when he grabbed the metal rail on his bed the whole thing would shake with him. We tried our best to console him but were prevented from holding him properly by all the wires and tubes.
- On one occasion he asked me what he had done to deserve such pain. “Why is this happening to me, Daddy? What have I done wrong?”, in a whispered and barely audible voice above his pain and trembling body. These were amongst his last ever words to me. I was unable to answer or comfort him and it broke me.
3. Waiting for days as a simple procedure that could have saved his life was delayed multiple times due to staff shortages, lack of resources and budget. This delay allowed the infection that killed him to take hold.
4. Being told by doctors to make him get up and walk, despite his clear agony. “It’s good for him,” they said. No it wasn’t. He wasn’t being lazy or weak, he had sepsis, which they had failed to pick up. The look on his face and his tears as he begged me to stop hurting him as I thought I was helping him is embedded in my memory forever.
5. Knowing that a simple course of antibiotics might have prevented the entire thing, but wasn’t given because it wasn’t deemed necessary. And when it finally was, it was too late.
6. Watching him look at us, confusion and fear on his face, as they finally wheeled him away for the delayed procedure when it was already too late. We felt utterly helpless. He came back in a coma and didn’t open his eyes again until a few minutes before he died over a week later.
7. Being taken aside by a doctor, alone without my wife, after Edward had been put into the induced coma, and told that mistakes had been made and that I could make a complaint if I wanted to. But I felt that it would serve no purpose to blame the same people now trying to save his life and who didn’t deliberately make any mistakes. I also didn’t want my wife to have to deal with this as well. Should I have complained? Did I let my son down by not?
8. Being the proudest father of a boy who fought so hard and bravely against an invisible enemy, and being unable to protect him. I know that there is very little I could have done but my primary role is to protect my family. I failed in the biggest way possible. Nobody will ever convince me otherwise.
9. Being given a ‘choice’ between turning off his life support machine or hoping for a miracle whilst the drugs keeping him alive were slowly killing him anyway. Making that choice for him and wondering forever if it was the right thing to do.
10. The collateral damage that nobody warns you about. A career that almost ended. How I lost the will to work. A thriving business that collapsed. Years of savings destroyed, the debt and the slow painful journey back.
11. That it took me ages to pick myself up and go back to work. I am angry at myself for taking so long.
12. My loss of identity. I knew who I was before, but I don’t anymore.
13. The flashbacks to the worst moments, that come without warning and stop me in my tracks, and hurt as much now as they did when they happened.
14. Being afraid to say that he was my mini me, in case I am judged and somehow thought to love one of my children more than the others, when I love them equally with all my heart.
These are the reasons why I am angry.
However well meaning your advice to calm down is – unless you are a professional therapist or my wife – it’s not helping. If you feel compelled to lecture me about anger, please think twice. Let me burn.
I don’t want sympathy, but empathy. I consider it a personal victory of some significance that I am able to operate normally most of the time. I don’t expect you to be thankful because none of it is your fault. Just know the context.
Everybody has been so kind to us and I will always be grateful. I know that this post is self-indulgent but please let me fight my own battles. I’m ok, it’s ok.