when anger and grief decide to visit

 

Photo licensed: shutterstock_419668975

Anger and grief showed up this week. I didn’t invite them. I hope they won’t stay long.

We’ve been through a lot these past few weeks-going-on-months. Through the crazy, uncertainties, changes, and inconveniences, I have maintained a fairly good attitude and my faith has withstood the storm.

This week, however, my heart was sucker-punched with some bad news and, as is often the case, my pain quickly turned to anger. I was angry at God. I was angry at myself and I was angry at my inability to fix things that are out of my control and that I don’t like.

As I sat with (or, more honestly, embraced) my anger for the better part of the day, the hard self-protective shell around my heart finally started to give way to the legitimate pain underneath. I recognized that I am very tired. Tired from some long-standing sadness that I’ve been carrying around for a while and tired from the emotional weight of our new reality. Tired of simple decisions now requiring an analysis of so many possible ramifications. I am grieving the suffering and the deaths, the struggles of those who are losing their jobs and those who are still working their jobs at great risk. I am grieving the loss of connection, independence, and freedom for us all.

In the midst of that unwelcome intrusion, I needed to remember (maybe you do too?) that anger and grief emotions are valid and real, and they do not need to be brushed aside immediately with positive thoughts or spiritual truths, hidden away under guilt and shame, or diminished by comparisons with something worse that someone else is experiencing. 

I have felt like an empathy failure at times because brushing aside, hiding, or comparing have been my responses all too often. That has made it more difficult for me – and for others – to process emotions and begin to heal.

I want to be more hospitable to anger and grief.

I am learning that it helps to share my emotions with a safe person, someone who can handle the authentic honesty of my heart. Many times God is my safe person through journaling or praying. I am intentionally working to be that kind of safe person for others, biting my tongue when it would be easier for me to offer ideas and try to “fix-it”, and instead simply be there for others in their pain until they are ready for something else from me. 

I recognize that anger and sorrow and healing will often share the same table with my joys and gratefulness and productivity. They are not one-time guests. Their presence makes for a messier living space than I prefer, but I am learning to be ok with that.

How do you handle anger and grief?

_______________

**As I was writing this, I listened to Brene Brown’s recent podcast and she shared helpful tips for living with our emotions. It’s really good and covers more than I can in a few words.

8 thoughts on “when anger and grief decide to visit

  1. Wow. You described the current state of my heart–and the heart of many others–so clearly and authentically that it actually feels good to allow my heart to release a lot of pent-up emotions of being an “empathy failure.” I don’t have it as hard as those who are losing jobs or losing their lives, so suck it and keep going. Thank you for this wonderful insight. You are an incredibly passionate and compassionate woman whom I deeply respect and love. Being safe people isn’t easy–and it’s often harder finding them. You nailed this one well, my dear friend. I’m going to focus on being more hospitable to anger and grief and less accusing of my heart feelings. Thanks, my friend. Your words are always filled with such wisdom and grace.

  2. Well, first of all, beautiful post, Terry. And, in the interest of full disclosure to your audience because you already well know ( since we share the same home) that anger is my go to emotion that often comes out sideways. I loved the Brené Brown podcast. Thanks for sharing that. I have a long way to go here and often don’t even know where to start. I think your realization that God can be that safe person is a good start.

    I recently listened to a podcast by Adam Young called, Why Engaging Your Story Requires Anger at God. Adam says this: “Sometimes, ‘the place we find ourselves’ is a place of anger at God. Some of us grew up in Christian sub-cultures in which anger at God was not allowed. If you were angry at God for too long, you had a sense that there was something wrong with you. As a result, many Christians feel ashamed if they find themselves angry at God. However, if you engage the heartache and pain of your story, there will inevitably be times where you are angry at God. Sooner or later, if you are emotionally honest, you will find yourself angry at your Creator.

    Have you ever just poured out your anger, before editing your words? The Bible, in multiple places and especially the book of Job, invites us to do exactly this because when we finally express our unedited anger fully to God, he is able to address our hearts.” — Adam Young

    Here is the link to offer to the podcast that is helping the way I am starting to think about anger:
    http://theplacewefindourselves.libsyn.com/9-why-engaging-your-story-requires-anger-at-god

    • Thanks, for the podcast suggestion. I’ll listen to it later. Sounds like it will be very helpful for a healthy perspective of who God is and how He is willing to recieve the “real” us. He can handle our hearts.

  3. Terri,
    I truly appreciate your ability to describe so clearly the impact of grief/anger and the pain which is beneath it all. I just wish this wad of sorrow wasn’t camping out at your house right now.

    I also wish it were true that an abundance of safe people reside within faith communities. My experience is that sadly, this isn’t always the case. It seems when you are at your most vulnerable someone you are hoping can handle the pain says the absolute worst thing possible. One of my favorites is, “Don’t cry.”

    The fact that you want to be able to be the person who can be there for others, to be present for their pain speaks to your strength and heart. To just sit with someone’s else’s pain takes a lot. Those who can do it seem to have been able to sit with grief and pain long enough to learn lessons. Grief and sorrow are the teachers nobody wants.

    Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook from Sandi Patti who was diagnosed with COVID-19. She spoke of her absolute weariness. She found a small verse in Genesis helpful concerning Noah (she thought particularly of Mrs. Noah) and having to sit in that blasted ark with all the stinky animals well after the 40 days and nights of rain. It caught my attention. Perhaps it would be comforting to you–or not. Things strike us as helpful at different times.

    I am praying for you all and the gentle, kind whispers of the Spirit to minister to your heart.

    Peace and soul rest,
    Mary

    • I so appreciate your empathetic heart, Mary. Yes. I, too, long for more “safe” people in the church and ministry. As I know I am not that good at it either, I have some compassion for those who truly want to be more that way, but don’t come by it naturally. I do think that those who are best at the empathetic response have often been through some especially hard times themselves and have learned through those not-favorite teachers. And so we grow. I will look up up the post by Sandy Patti. Thanks so much for sending that along. Praying for your safety and health and opportunities to care for others’ hearts also during these difficult times. Thanks again for reading and following along with me.

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