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The Snakebite of Death

I told you that I had four thoughts that came out of reading Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays.  You can go backwards to the first thought, even if you haven’t read the book because these thoughts aren’t tied to the text but rather float above the page.  In other words, reading these posts will not ruin the book, and at the same time, they’re not (I think) confusing.

Next thought.

As I said, at its heart, this book is about Mastai processing the loss of his mother at an early age.  It’s science fiction, but it’s really about how we live and the meaning of our relationships and the impact we have on one another.  At least, that was my take-away.

On page 301, the narrator is talking about the aftermath of a death, when you reach a moment where the pain of the loss can turn you in a multitude of directions:

You love someone for fifty years and then they die. People talk about grief as emptiness, but it’s not empty. It’s full. Heavy. Not an absence to fill. A weight to pull. Your skin caught on hooks chained to rough boulders made of all the futures you thought you would have. How do you keep five decades of love from souring into a snakebite that makes your own heart the threat, drawing the poison up and down the length of you?

How?  I’m asking this literally.  How do you keep from drowning in anger at the world after you lose someone whom you have loved for fifty years?  Or, really, five years or five months or five days?  We’re a community steeped in loss.  We know how much loss can change a person.  That loss hurts because it stems from love; whether it is a cluster of cells or an unborn fetus or a person walking around on earth.

There is a lot of anger in this community that bubbles up from time to time, more so years ago when everyone knew everyone else and less so now that the ALI community has become scattered over time.  It’s not anger at each other but more anger at the situation.  You have love.  You want to give it to another human being.  The universe is working against you, thwarting you from giving that love to another human being.  It hurts.  It can become an internal snakebite just as easily as it can fuel your passion in another direction.

Even outside of family building; everyone has people that they love that they ultimately lose.  How do you keep your anger at the situation — at being furious with the world for taking someone you love from you — from poisoning you?  Will everyone get to the point where they’re not sad it’s over but smiling because it happened?  Because I don’t think that’s true; I don’t think we all get there, every time.

Your thoughts?


1 a { 09.20.17 at 8:03 am }

I get angry about a lot of things that fall under the “life’s not fair”umbrella, but death is not one of those things. It is inevitable and uncontrollable. Might as well get angry at the sun. (Which I have probably done, but it’s not sustained anger.)

Maybe I just don’t fear death, so that’s why it doesn’t anger me. Maybe it’s because some of my loved ones suffered horribly before they died that I am merely sad about not having those people to talk to anymore. If I didn’t think death equated to the removal of their pain, I would be more likely to be angry, I think.

2 Cristy { 09.20.17 at 8:49 am }

And now you’ve thoroughly convinced me to pick up Matasi’s book. Thank you!

How to keep your anger over loss from poisoning you? Be that loss from someone you’ve known (or hope to know better) for 50 years vs 5 days? Honestly, that’s a tough one. But for me, validation of the loss and the pain has helped. The bitterness I’ve felt has been when my feelings have been minimized. When there’s comparison. I actually think this is the root for why people get so angry as they see someone else being validated or competing for the compassion they need when they feel there isn’t enough to go around.

As far as getting to a point where you can smile about having had the experience with that person, I agree with you that not everyone gets there. It’s very person dependent, based not only on their life experiences but also who they are as a person. But I will counter that by saying I think everyone has the potential. Even those where the roads are seemingly impossible to get there and the journey is going to be a long one.

3 Working mom of 2 { 09.20.17 at 9:20 am }

I wish I knew. I’m still very angry about my father’s death 2 years 6 months and 12 days ago.

4 Working mom of 2 { 09.20.17 at 3:32 pm }

Just wanted to add that the age of the person or the proximity to when they were “expected” to die doesn’t necessarily correlate with anger…I’m entitled to my feelings including anger and it REALLY pissed me off when people were like “how old was he?” And then “oh!” as they carried on with some comment about how he lived a long life, like it’s ok that HE died bc he was xx years old. That doesn’t mean the circumstances didn’t make me mad, or that he was ready to die/at peace (he wasn’t) or that we were ready or fine.

5 Raven { 09.20.17 at 10:50 am }

I agree – we don’t all get there. Some people are more angry than others, and some aren’t.

For a long time, I wasn’t angry about our losses – I was just sad. Somewhere over the last year, I’ve become more mad, than sad. I don’t know how to NOT be mad or sad about it – how to pick up my life and carry on. I can’t imagine it’s easy. This book sounds so intriguing though, and I am going to pick it up and read it!

6 Sharon { 09.20.17 at 12:23 pm }

This book *does* sound really interesting!

Like most people, I have suffered losses of loved ones: grandparents, my stepfather, friends. I don’t recall feeling angry about the loss of older relatives but do recall feeling that way about my friends (both of whom died WAY before expected, one violently).

As for our infertility, I certainly felt a lot of anger while going through it. But my children are now 5.5, and our family is complete, so I don’t feel that way anymore. Not exactly sure when, or how, I stopped feeling angry about that.

7 Sharon { 09.20.17 at 1:41 pm }

BTW. . . I went to Goodreads to check out the reviews on this book. Seems that most people either loved it or hated it. Hmmm. . ..

8 katherinea12 { 09.20.17 at 6:13 pm }

I think I really need to read this book.

It’s an interesting question that you ask. I definitely have felt a lot of anger over the past five years or so – when I was diagnosed with infertility, at the losses, etc. I don’t know that I’m yet to the point of *never* being angry about some of those things – it bubbles up at times, though less than it once did. I have run into a few situations in which I’ve recognized that I was going to have to learn to separate my anger at my own loss/situation from what’s going on with the other person in order to prevent damage to relationships. I’ve learned – much better – how to hold several strong emotions at the same time. That I can feel more than one emotion and they don’t cancel each other out.

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