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Question #92555 posted on 08/25/2019 7:36 p.m.

Dearest 100 Hour Board,

I dropped my younger brother off at the MTC today. It made me really sad, and as we drove away, I got really irrationally angry about how there are fences around the MTC, keeping me from seeing him when he's so close to me. I felt really stupid to be mad at the fences.

Can you explain why we often feel angry when we are sad, even though it doesn't make sense to be? (Especially since I'm happy for him)

-Sad Sister


Happy-sad-mad Sister,

Sadness is only comprehension of discontent. Sadness feels. Anger searches. It is motivated discontent. It's the hurt of loss with a spice of hope. And man is it spicy. I'll explain.

Think of the questions people ask the second they realize something is missing and they feel anger: "Where's my mac n' cheese? Who did this? Why can't I have it?" They're seeking a culprit, the thing they lost, or maybe an answer. When they come up with dead-ends (or fences) they're left with sadness: "My brother ate it and I love and forgive him." There's no more chance of changing it or getting justice. There's nothing to seek. No more hope of getting it back and the anger dissipates. 

In some ways, the anger is really grief checking to see why the sadness is happening to us and if it's really necessary. If we can figure out who or what is making this happen to us we can do something about it, reason with it, and possibly make the sad thing not happen. "Can I still have my mac n' cheese? Can I find it? Will the culprit make it up?" When my first brother left on his mission, I was angry with myself for not spending more time with him (I was like nine, so I wasn't smart enough to be angry at rules instead of myself). I think my anger was searching for a way to keep it from happening again. When my grandma died I was angry at the FLORAL PATTERN all over the funeral home. I distinctly remember my cranky ten-year-old self asking my aunt "Why is it always flower patterns?" her replying, "They're meant to be relaxing for people" and then me grumbling "Well, I think they're pokey." Why would a ten-year-old even notice a floral pattern enough to feel personally attacked by it? I think my discontent was searching for an end. The flowers could go away, even though the loss could not.

The stages of grief are denial>anger>depression>bargaining>acceptance. Between your question, and my last paragraph, we've already called out most of these elements. So I want to say, right in your cute face, that you're grieving. Rightly so. Be patient with yourself if you can. I don't know if the grief model is taught as a linear process. But if it is, I completely disagree. Grief is wibbly wobbly and iterative. And by that I mean, we experience these stages in any order, some at the same time, and we repeat them until every piece of your experience is at a state of rest. 

Now that I so presumptuously labelled it grief, I can tell you that grief and joy hangout all the time. My sister's wedding day was happy-sad. Funerals are happy-sad. Goodbyes are happy-sad. It is really really okay for you to be happy-sad for your brother. It really does make sense to come up with flashes of anger on your way to happy-sad. I think eventually it will become mostly just happy. Especially when he comes home. It really does go by fast. Cry a lot, watch Sing Street (2016) if you haven't already. Eat some mac n' cheese. If I can find a way to be angry at upholstery, I think it's reasonable to be angry at a fence.



Dear lizard gizzard,

But what about the reasons for the fences--it's not to keep the missionaries in--it's to keep the binturongs (an animal smelling of popcorn) out!

Before the Walls, you couldn't go two feet without tripping over a binturong off to bathe itself in the sweat that condensed in the gutters that ran from the gym. Buttered and salted, amirite?

Remember, remember, the Eighth of September,

--Ardilla Feroz