Sometime in June or July, the song “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit became my personal anthem. Dad was very sick, the doctors couldn’t seem to make up their minds on how to treat him, and all I wanted to do was break something out of frustration.
After a series of extremely distressing events culminating in The Unimaginable, my stress and grief manifested as extreme anger.
“I am untethered and my rage knows no bounds!” -Dennis Reynolds, It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia
The day before Dad died was also my brother’s birthday. I spent the late morning driving around the city near the hospital, screaming over the music and crying hysterically in my car. I had just gotten a call from Mom that the doctor wanted to talk to me and my brother. No doctor had asked this before, and visitor restrictions had been super strict because of COVID, so my gut told me the doctor was going to tell us something really, really bad. I was right.
The anger continued into the evening. My mom, my brother and I stomped around the house, trying to get some of our frustration out. He would pass within a few days, and there was nothing we could do about it.
We jumped on plastic water bottles, threw the caps at the wall, ran around outside throwing things, and screamed from the porch. I even punched a wall. (Not very hard.)
It was dark and rainy that night, which I said matched my soul. My mom and I stomped in every mud puddle we could find. We just needed to feel like we had even the smallest sense of control.
While this probably sounds melodramatic and not the best way to act, we actually discovered that this was the start of processing our anger in a relatively safe way. We were not trying to hurt ourselves or others. We just needed to smash something to get some of the emotions out of our system.
The next day, the day that Dad died, the anger was overshadowed by the shock and numbness from having to say goodbye. I didn’t need to process my anger then, because I needed the energy to focus on the other emotions.
However, the anger came right back the day after he died, and every day that week. I woke up feeling upset and sad. “My Dad is gone. He’s not coming back. This isn’t Thumbelina where she thinks the prince is dead and but he is actually alive, and surprises her mid-song.” All of these thoughts circled around my mind, making me angrier and angrier.
Mom and I went to the store on Monday night and bought cheap glassware and shower curtains with the intention of smashing the glasses as soon as we got home. The associate asked if we wanted them wrapped and we exchanged a look before saying yes. We didn’t want them to break before we had a chance to smash them.
We got home and spread out the shower curtains on the floor of the basement, wrote what we were the most angry about on each of the glasses, and smashed each of them on the floor. Some of the glasses bounced without breaking, which only added to our irritation. Some big chunks were still intact – I picked up a mallet and smashed them into tiny pieces.
This was incredibly cathartic, especially with our rage music playlist, or Ragelist as I called it, playing in the background.
Songs on the Ragelist included:
- “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit (of course)
- “Burn MF” by Five Finger Death Punch
- “Dark Places” by Hollywood Undead
- “Down With the Sickness” by Disturbed
- “Enter Sandman” by Metallica
- “Headstrong” by Trapt
- “Last Resort” by Papa Roach
- “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit
- “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC
- “Wolf Totem ft. Jacoby Shaddix” by The HU
For us, breaking glass in a safe and controlled environment was an important act of self-care. If we had let the anger continue to build without a good outlet, it would have just manifested in other, likely unhealthy ways. I cannot stress enough that sometimes you just really need to smash something.
The week continued with the anger bubbling below the surface, until my brother and I accidentally broke the dartboard in my Dad’s pole barn and tried to find a new one.
Finding an electronic dartboard for soft-tip/plastic darts almost made “The Odyssey” look like an easy afternoon trip (at least, in my grief-stricken mind.)
To give you a little context so you’ll understand why I made it my mission that week to find a new one, my Dad was a very good dart player.
He and I made a great team – he was left-handed, so he always got the 16’s and 19’s for me. It was a fun activity for us to do together. I had just gotten him a set of darts for his birthday, which he never had a chance to use.
All I wanted to do after he died was play darts in his memory.
So my brother and I set out on our quest. We checked the Walmart nearest us and then went to the one a town over. Both stores were out of stock on the one we wanted; they only had bristle/cork boards that required metal tip darts. We didn’t want to damage the walls or windows in Dad’s barn, so we kept looking.
We tried the Runnings nearby, but the sales associates looked at us like we had five heads when we asked if they sold them. Our next attempt was to look at Amazon: in stock, but wouldn’t be delivered until the following week.
“I will be back in my own city by then! I want to play NOW! Throwing things is just as good as smashing them and I need to get my anger out!!” I growled at my phone.
We finally just Google dartboards in our area and find one in our price range that I can pick up the next day. The closest one that has it in stock is at store 45 minutes away, but I didn’t mind making the drive.
We pick the new dartboard up the next day, but don’t try to set it up until Friday. The anger started to come out again – we didn’t know how to use the tools without Dad showing us, the dartboard wouldn’t come off, etc. Then the kicker: the new dartboard doesn’t even work. We were sold a defective product. The anger intensified, and I’m surprised we didn’t smash the old one right then and there.
I made a plan to wake up early the next day, which was also the day of my Dad’s Celebration of Life, and drive back to the store for a refund and see if the Walmart nearby had anything.
I sprung out of bed and every single emotion that I had already been feeling manifested into the most angry I have ever been. I wanted to throw and smash everything I saw.
We went to the store and got the refund. At that point, we had accepted that we might just need to settle for a bristle board or cork board. We could put plywood up so the metal tips didn’t ruin Dad’s barn.
We looked around the store to see what else they have: bristle boards, but very poor quality ones. Only the best for the memory of Jamez, this will not do. We sigh (growl) and get ready to go to Walmart. I tell my brother that if Walmart is the same way, I’ll probably just pass out in the aisle from the stress. We arrive and check the aisle: this Walmart does not have a single dartboard in stock. Not even a poor quality one. Nothing. At this point, I am just speechless.
I drop my brother off at the house, and I go into town to get gas and more cheap glassware to smash. I needed to process the events of the morning before more emotions came up during the Celebration of Life. I didn’t want to snap in front of family and friends.
On a whim, I go back to the first Walmart that we tried on the way home. THEY ACTUALLY HAD THE THE DARTBOARD WE WERE ORIGINALLY LOOKING FOR. I don’t really know what I believe in when it comes to the afterlife, but I feel like Dad was there at that moment, making sure I got what I was looking for so I could finally calm down.
We set the new dartboard set up and I found that the act of throwing was also helpful and very cathartic, and replaced the desire to smash things that day. I threw some more stuff around the yard that afternoon. It helped me continue to process the anger.
Mom and I didn’t have a chance to smash the new glassware before I left to go back to my apartment, so it’s sitting in the basement until my next trip to visit in two weeks.
I know that when I go back, it will be the one-month point after his death and the anger will likely come back.
Now that I know how to process the emotion in a relatively safe way, I can continue to work through my anger.