It almost felt like the rage was more powerful than my soul. Its force shocked and even scared me. I literally felt like I was Satan’s sister. I wanted to dig Lance up and beat him up! I never knew that I had the capacity to be that full of rage towards anyone, let alone my beloved husband. I felt terribly guilty, thinking that the trauma had caused my soul to become permanently corroded.
Later, I learned that the deeper love is, the stronger the anger is after losing that love. The two feelings need to be equivalent, in opposing directions, for true healing to happen and for a grieving person to be able to move on.
One of the first experiences I had with the ‘angry at Lance’ stage was bittersweet. It happened on a day I had decided to attend the temple. I had always enjoyed worshipping there with Lance when he felt healthy enough to go with me. After his death, I continued to go regularly, but on this day, I was feeling sorry for myself, and the angry side of my grief had settled deep into my heart. As I entered the first room and sat quietly in the congregation, my feelings were raw and painful.
I know it doesn’t make sense, but I blamed Lance for dying and for leaving me. Well-meaning people had often tried to console me by telling me that my wonderful, spiritual husband had been called by God to do some other work in heaven that was more important. These words did not help me at all, but only caused me to feel angrier at both God and Lance. What an idea—that there could be anything more important than fulfilling your responsibilities as a husband and father! It made me feel as if Lance had ditched and betrayed me and our children for some grandiose calling that stroked his ego.
On this day in the temple, I was so full of hot, angry rage, I could barely control my emotions. Sometimes the anger came to a head at the most inappropriate moments. It always felt completely real, no matter how much the logical side of myself told me that my feelings were illogical. The emotion was too strong—it overpowered logic like a freight train running over a little cardboard box. My mind didn’t really believe that Lance wanted to ditch us for some arrogant ‘higher call,’ but the whole rest of my soul felt that he did. I was fuming inside, almost uncontrollably.
I sat down and tried to calm myself, waiting for the temple presentation to begin. It starts with a beautiful movie that teaches us how God provided a Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, and rose from death, in order that He could save us from our sins, and through our repentance and obedience to His commandments, lift us to eternal life. On this occasion, though, the beauty of this message was completely lost on me, and as the lights in the room dimmed and the movie began, my angry, aching heart broke open in the privacy of the darkness, and I could no longer hold back the hot, bitter tears.
Suddenly and very unexpectedly, I felt Lance’s presence but wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. “I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU!” I screamed at him in my mind. And the tears would not stop. I could not see Lance but I knew, without any doubt, he was right there. He seemed to hesitate; to step away for just a second.
Then I heard his words in my mind. Not out loud, but perfectly clear inside my head: “Can I hold you while you hate me?”
And all I could do was cry and cry as the anger gushed out and slowly dissipated into his warm and sweet embrace. I felt it – not physically – but I knew he had his arms around my soul, and I felt his love, forgiveness, understanding, and his pain, too. I did not hear any more words from him, but my heart was healed just a little bit more as we cried together that day.
By Jozet Richardson Hulley, an excerpt from the book, “The Message From Our Side,” by Lance and Jozet Richardson and their children. Order your copy at www.themessagefromourside.com, or buy it at Seagull Book or Deseret Book.