The Hulk State – A New Stage Of Grief?

There are apparently five stages of grief:

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Acceptance

I believe though comprehensive, there is a state of grief missing. A state that runs through most of these stages.

The Hulk (or Banner) State.

My kids love to play the game “If you were a super-hero, which super-hero would you be?”. This typically evolves into a lively debate over which super-power is the best. Each of my offspring currently believes that shape-shifting is the best possible power. I personally cannot think of a super-hero who shape-shifts, but I am wrong, apparently. As I seem to be, increasingly in most things. My view that Wonder Woman, or Captain America are worthy winners of our theoretical game, is met with eye rolls and a certain amount of disdain. Pre-Covid isolation, I may have been bothered about the lack of respect offered me and my valid opinions. Now?

Meh!

Our most recent vapid discussions about super-heroes came not long after a conversation I’d been having with my brother. My strong, capable, reliable big brother. He told me that there is a sadness, a grief that lives just below his surface. “Sometimes I’m at work and I can feel it’s about to burst out!” he told me. “I have to be careful!” And, I knew exactly what he meant.

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Me and my big bro 

I think my brother and I are experiencing  a common state, uncommonly described as The Hulk (or Banner) State.

Bear with me….

The Hulk’s big secret is unveiled towards the end of the Avengers film: He’s always angry.  That’s his secret. The anger is always there. It lives just beneath his calm exterior. The “other guy” can appear at will. The slightest trigger could and does set him off.

But, good old Dr Banner has learnt to live with it. To get through day to day life. To live as others do. To blend in. Unnoticed. Normal. Functioning. Until the next inevitable trigger when he can either choose to unleash his anger, to let it out, to unshackle the beast within, or to fight with himself to keep it contained.

Both are damaging: Releasing the “other guy” could place others at risk. Cause upset. But containing it is hard work. Exhausting. Relentless. And often unsuccessful!

I feel like the Hulk. And I don’t mean enormous and green (though give me a few more weeks of isolation and enormous is going to be within grasp!). Except bubbling away beneath my normal exterior is sadness. Grief. Loss. It touches so many moments with its far-reaching, insatiable appetite. It pinches me sharply, whenever I’m at risk of becoming indifferent about its presence. Tickling me with its condescending, relentless enthusiasm. It bubbles away, gaining strength with each passing rebuttal. It is a sneaky bedfellow and catches me unawares at times. Leaving me struggling to breath. Embarrassed. Apologising awkwardly for my lack of control.

My son found me like this recently. The day I found out my father is now facing an uphill battle with stomach cancer. I crumbled beneath the weight of the sadness and fear. My body convulsing in heaving, ugly sobs. Snot and tears pouring like larva down my face.

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He was shocked and probably a little scared.

I was ashamed. Momentarily.

He gave me a cuddle and slowly my “other guy” retreated.

I don’t think you ever really get over losing someone you love. Instead you learn to live with the grief. It becomes part of you. I expect the appearance of my Hulk, my “other guy” will reduce over time, that the metaphorical explosions of green muscle will become less frequent. I do believe however, that he will always be lurking and my kids are inevitably learning that grief and sadness are a part of life.

And the next time I am found – snot flowing, ugly sobbing (I am a very ugly crier!) – I will explain to them that I am like the best super-hero (never mind their shape-shifting nonsense!) – And like the Hulk, I have a weakness. A secret.

A secret that some days I keep hidden, whilst other days I cannot.

But my secret is not anger.

My secret is love.

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Miss you, Mum x

4 thoughts on “The Hulk State – A New Stage Of Grief?

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    1. Sarah
      It’s so nice to meet you. Liz has told me lots about you. I can’t believe how you have described EXACTLY the way I feel right now. Those totally uncontrollable breakdowns, the happy memories, the grief. It’s all so encompassing isn’t it. You want to run away from it but you also don’t want to. My mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three months ago but she has been ‘lost’ for years now. She doesn’t know who i am most days or her grandchildren. She still gives my dad a big kiss everynight before she goes to bed though and that gives me a glimmer of hope. She is there somewhere. My Mum, like yours, was also a dancer. I hope that when she sleeps she still dreams about these days and every other day. I hope she sees me and my sister as little girls. I hope she sees herself on her wedding day and my wedding day. I hope she remembers all the good things and none of the bad. I hope she isn’t scared.
      Bxx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh Beth, thank you for your message and lovely to meet you too. I am so sorry to hear about your mum, only those who are going through it or have been through it can truly understand what it is like. You have to cling on to hope, as some days it is so desperately sad and a tiny bit of hope that they’re still in there somewhere is the only thing keeping you from crumbling.

        Keep smiling when you can and try and remember the good days. I try and remind myself just how lucky I am to have had a mum like mine – so many didn’t get the childhood I had, so I try and remember to be grateful. Though it is so hard when you feel like you’ve been robbed of the future you had planned.

        Lots of love. Keep in touch if you ever want to chat or moan or cry,
        Sarah x

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  1. Thank you dear friend for your kind and tender thoughts. You have had a few difficult and emotional years yourself and we think of you dearly and I in particular find great comfort in reading your comments and of course your own internet writings. Stay safe with Mr. Virus causing such devastation.

    Like

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