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13. Regarding Loss pt. 4

Listen in Spanish:

Listen in English:

Good Morning Families, today is Thursday April 2nd 2020 and it is now time for our moment of SEL.

I want to follow up with something from yesterday. Why it might be for some of us that, when we face a sense of loss, we may experience anger or why we may substitute anger for sadness.

Growing up Italian American and in West Virginia I got a pretty solid education in sadness being for girls and anger being for boys. Both from the Latin blood of my father and the Scots-Irish culture deep in the Appalachians that gave rise to both me and the modern American redneck. I don’t think I ever saw an adult male cry. I also never heard an adult male say the words, “That makes me sad.” Not in my home, not in my school, definitely not at the Mall or any sporting events. I think that it must have happened from time to time. I’m sure some of the behavior choices me and my friends made gave our fathers or uncles reason to be sad. Sad for us, sad for them, they were and probably sad for our entire generation. #Hypercolor, what the heck was that.

When I reflect on loss, I realize that even though I know I experience sadness in the process of coming to terms with loss, I often choose to go through anger first. I think there are a couple of reasons for this and maybe these are true for you also.

There is something built into loss that feels “unfair”. You can see this on the playground when a team loses in kickball or someone gets out in bump or during a game of tag. A lot of the times the first thing you hear is, “That’s not fair!” And, I suppose it makes sense in that we don’t encourage kids to cry when they get out. I don’t. I don’t know anyone who does. Maybe I’m wrong. We do teach and coach kids the meaning of “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn” (which is reframing loss as learning, and a strong mode for teaching reappraisal, which is great) So for many the initial reaction of sadness is perhaps covered by some form of protective anger. The kids are getting the message that sadness is not within the social expectation, whereas anger, particular when associated with sport may be safe, being viewed as intensity or investment or even care.

I have found that anger can also be protective for profound loss such as the loss of a loved one, the loss of something precious, the loss of something that can’t be replaced. For me something about that profound loss feels cosmically unfair. I find myself focused not on the sadness of loss but on the anger at the injustice of the loss. It’s not fair!

I certainly recognize this feeling with anger these days as I think about all the things people are losing right now. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t mad. But mad at what, the Corona virus? At those I perceive of as authority; those who are supposed to protect us from this, those who are supposed to be better than us, after all, they said they were, that’s we gifted them with power. See, I’m mad right there. Or maybe mad at the perceived absence of something even larger. Maybe I don’t even know what it is.

This kind of anger can be pervasive, difficult to pin down. It can be stealthy, creeping out on minor inconveniences, perceived slights, leaving me anxious, irritable, short-fused. And when you combine this with social distancing, removing many of the mainstays of anger reducing activities like going to the gym, playing sports, running, climbing, socializing, stay home stay safe could easily turn into stay home stay angry.

This cycle could be true for people of any age; the 6-year-old, 12-year-old, 27-year-old, 45-year-old, 85-year-old. So, what do you do about it? Well, that’s where there is also sadness because unfortunately, not all people can express anger in the same way and expect the same social consequence. I’ve not met many people that truly believe that anger is bad. I’ve not many people who believe that a person should never experience anger. However, there are many, many widely varying ideas about how anger is expressed and who gets to express it. I would also note, I’m talking about anger, not rage. Rage is not anger. Rage can be scary. We’ll use some emotional granularity later to differentiate between anger and rage or fury. For right now we are talking anger.

I will speak for myself, and Julio, who is interpreting and translating the audio will speak about me Mr. Manzo. For those of you listening, when in Spanish, you’ll hear Julio referring to he or him. I (He) am (is) in a very privileged class of anger expressors. I’m (He’s) a white, cisgender, heterosexual, man, from a Judeo-Christian background. Sure, I (he) have (has) that Latin blood, but I’ve (he’s) also got that white skin. I’ve (He’s) got the complexion for the protection when it comes to anger expression. When I (he) express(es) anger it is possible that I (he) could be considered passionate, dedicated, strong, intense, handsome. (I/He just put that last one int there). Those are nice descriptors. I (he) don’t (doesn’t) want to change them. I (he) likes them. Who wouldn’t like that? I’ve (he’s) lived a life in a society that has confirmed that it’s okay for me (him) to at least think those things. And certainly, others like me (him) support me (him) in thinking those because it’s good for them al. I (he) don’t (doesn’t) want that to change. But I (he) do(es) want others to be able to join this club. What others? All others. I (he) want(s) everyone to be considered passionate, dedicated, strong, intense, handsome when they are feeling anger. All people, all colors. All families welcome. Welcome to the “it’s okay to be angry, express it, and be considered good” club. We meet once a month at TJ’s house. Just kidding. Okay Julio, you can go back to saying me.

Right now, in my “stay home stay safe” club house my family, all of whom are members in the “it’s okay to be angry, express it, and be considered good” club meet every day around 2:30. That’s about the time we just can’t do it anymore.

But here’s the thing. We have to established for our house, what it means to have safe anger expression look like. We have to talk about what we do with anger. If we all agree that it’s okay to yell and throw pillows at the couch, then I suppose when any one of us does that, it’ll be okay.

In our schools and in our communities, we don’t often make a social management plan for expressing anger. If we did, and we ALL agreed on it, great. We could all express it with the same consequence. Maybe we can work on that as we venture out, when it’s safe for others and for ourselves. Until then, maybe we can take a moment today and reflect on how we are feeling. Are you experiencing any sense of loss? Can you put your finger on it? Do you feel sad about it? Do you feel angry about it? If you do feel sadness or anger, how can you express it in ways that support your feelings, but don’t harm those around you? If you aren’t experiencing anger, how can you support those around you who are, in ways that allows them to express themselves?

Taking a time, when you and everyone with you are calm, to talk about anger, could really do wonders for helping to express it and manage it in a way that works for all. Maybe start by asking everyone to try to describe how his or her body feels when it is angry. Just describing the physiological experience of anger can help build awareness about when it is present. After everyone has shared, see if you can make decide, how, as a home community, you can make space for everyone there to express anger when it arises. If you can recognize it when you are experiencing anger, and you have a plan for how everyone can express anger, you may find that it’s easier to maintain healthy relationships and those around you.

I wish you the very best and look forward to connecting in any way we can, tomorrow.

Until tomorrow,

May your thoughts and feelings be with you.

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