It might not be the emotion we actually are struggling with, but it often times feels as if it's the only one that feels productive or safe to allow out.
What do we do, when all we have left is the anger?
Her feet, tiny yet forceful, pummel the back of my seat. I grip the steering wheel, my nose burning with that familiar pain, and my eyes blinded by the tears brimming in their corners. I look into the rearview mirror to see her tiny hands pounding on her closed window. In that mirror, I see her writhing, and see him walking away in his uniform and desert boots. He has already told us goodbye. But his guilt is eating him. He stops, turns his gaze back toward the truck, and hesitates. I plow out of the parking lot, making that decision for him. He can’t come back for one last goodbye. Our hearts have already exploded.
The radio hums with a lively kids’ tune, and my three-year-old son tries desperately to cheer her up. When he feels helpless, the clown in him protects him. He slaps his face, looking at her for a giggle. She gives him nothing. Her cries, agonizing and explosive, fill the new emptiness of the seat next to me.
With no other way left to help, my son finally resorts to asking. “Why are you sad?” he says to her. “Because I miss Daddy,” she responds. “I know. Me too,” he softly replies, staring out his window.
My tears fall beneath my dark sunglasses. I remain mute in the front seat, trying not to dictate her pain or to interfere in their discussion. “Only when they need and want me,” I tell myself over and over again.
I want to stop the truck. To hold her and tell her it is okay. But it isn’t. None of this is okay. The goodbyes. The pain. And the ever-present, uncontrollable anger. None of it is remotely okay. And I won’t lie to her. Or make her think her pain isn’t allowed.
She cries. And cries. He laughs. And stares. I drive. And seethe.
Why would he choose this lifestyle? Why does he always leave? When will this finally be over? Why do I always feel guilty for being angry with him?
Thirty minutes pass, and she has finally quieted. “Mommy,” she whispers. “Yeah, honey?” I ask, worried she may hear a hint of anger in my voice. I need her to know I am not angry with her. Or really with my husband. I’m just racked with rage that knows no target.
“If I’m mad at Daddy, does that make me a bad girl?” Silence. How much more can these poor babies handle? How much more can I handle? How much more can he handle? All of us?
“No, baby. Of course it doesn’t. You just miss him, and that is perfectly fine,” I answer. “Anger is natural. I get angry sometimes, too,” I answer. “Yeah. Me too,” my son chimes in, still staring out his window. “It doesn’t make me feel good inside,” she responds. “I know. But, if you talk about it, sometimes that makes it better,” I answer. She doesn’t respond. They both ride in silence, and I join them.
I understand. Who wants to be angry with the “hero”?
Anger. It is so powerful in our lifestyle and we have nowhere to focus it. We tend to take it out on our husbands, but that isn’t really fair because if they had a choice, they would pick us. We can’t take it out on our kids; it isn’t their fault. They are dealing with so much and they don’t understand all the pieces that got us to the point of sending their Daddies off to war away from them and away from us. We try and blame the government or the Army, but how do we let them know how mad we are besides voting?
Our spouses think they know what we are dealing with on this side of the wars, but there is no way for them to get it. We don’t want to blame them but how can we not because they are the ones that leave and leave again? They joined and in essence we joined too. We choose to be married, and I know we don’t get to pick who we fall in love with, but all the anger is still there. It is in our soldiers. It is eating at us and it is overwhelming to our kids.
All we can do is to keep fighting to not let the anger run us. We need to allow ourselves to feel the emotion without it taking over every moment. Melissa was right in allowing her daughter to express herself. She has no other way to get the hurt out than to kick the seat and cry. Heck I still want to do that sometimes myself. We need to talk to them about what they are feeling and let them know that it is OK. It doesn’t make them bad and their Daddies will still love them. They are too young to understand the situation so there is no way we can expect them to behave in any other way.
What we can do is help them through it. We can hold them while they cry that they miss their Papas. We can get pillows for them to hit and scream at. We can have them write down or draw their feelings and we can get them counseling if they need it. They and we have a right to our anger and hurt. The key is to not feed into each other’s and to allow our families the right to their feelings even if it is hard.