Shame and Anger in a Time of Grief

Anger is a normal part of grief, and it doesn’t always make a lot of sense. It can feel shameful and disorienting when we’re angry at the person we’ve lost, but that’s a normal part of grief too. After Laura died, I was mad at her for being gone and leaving me behind. In my worst moments, I blamed her for letting me drive the night of the crash and felt mortified when I became aware of my anger. In this excerpt from Crashing: I Love You. Forgive Me, I’m dreaming of fighting with Laura and letting her know how mad I am.

“We had a plan,” I tell her accusingly in the dream. “How could you change the plan?”

“You think this is my fault?” She’s irate.

“I’m not the one who changed the plan. You were supposed to drive. I’m pretty sure we didn’t get to the car, and I decided, ‘what the hell, let me drive even though I’m wasted.’” 

“So you do think this is my fault,” she replies, challenging me to just come out and say it.

“Yes, dammit. It’s your fault. You were the designated driver. The autopsy says you were drinking. Not as much as me, but you were! I was counting on you.”

“What do you want me to say? I’m sorry? Fine, I’m sorry.”

It’s not just that she didn’t do what she promised to do. It’s that I’m the one left behind to deal with the pain of losing her and all the other fallout from her death. She’s pleading with her eyes, but I won’t give her the satisfaction.

“You have no idea what this is like,” I tell her. “You should be here feeling this. Not me. Every day now is the worst day of my life. I hate, I hate, being around all these people either pitying me or judging me. And even worse is seeing your family. You turned me into a monster who did this horrible thing. And I miss you. I need you. And you’re not here. You were supposed to always be here.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what else I can say. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. You’re right.”

“I wish I were dead, but you’re the one who gets to be. Your dad told me he thinks I had to survive because you wouldn’t be able to pick yourself up off the ground if it had been the other way around. But I don’t feel like I’m off the ground, and  I don’t want to be alive without you. It isn’t fair that you aren’t suffering any of it.”

I wake up ashamed of dreaming my anger and blaming her in my sleep. When I’m awake and I start to blame her, I can shut it down pretty quickly. She’s dead, and I’m alive. She’s dead, and it’s my fault. I walked away from the crash with barely a scratch. Her body was ripped apart and her life was ended. It takes a lot of gall to get mad at the woman you loved, the woman you killed.

But I can’t hide it from my dreams. I’m mad at her. My dad used to say “if you fail to plan, plan to fail” and “proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.” Well, we had a plan. And I wasn’t the one who was supposed to be responsible for keeping us safe the night of the crash. I’m not just mad at her for letting me drive, though. I’m mad at her for being dead, for leaving me. 

How could she?