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.