The weekend between my father’s death and his funeral, my mother’s house was filled with people. Extended family, friends, neighbors, they all came. I appreciated most of the support, except from one aunt. She, like me, was filled with the need to take care of my mother. It became a sick competition between us. I resented her help. I felt she should back off. Uneasy, she talked too much.
Everything she said came out wrong or inconsiderate. She bragged on how nice my husband was and how she wished we had children—knowing I couldn’t get pregnant. She realized her insensitivity and apologized. Conversationally, she said someone she was close to suffered from depression and thought he might kill himself, too. Her comments seemed casual to me. I couldn’t process the things she said. In my mind, it had only been a few hours since I had just found Daddy’s body.
At first, I felt hammered by her words and listened in shocked silence. Then my anger spewed forth. It didn’t come out so much in my words as how I said them. I bore down on her—leveling my eyes upon her like an aggressive dog on the verge of attack. She went flying out of the room, crying.
Even though we were in a reactive state of mind, the resentment stayed with me for a long time. Slowly, I realized I had been using her as a safety valve for my anger—anger that Daddy had been so selfish, that he had left his body for me to find, that I sat there feeling so powerless. She was a safe target, a scapegoat; I knew she loved me. Later, I apologized. She said there was nothing to apologize for. She was right. We were all so full of grief.
Grieving people say and do stupid things. Grieving people react just as stupidly. We hurt each other. Be thankful. Understanding or not, we become great teachers in the lessons of forgiveness.