Guest Author - Rev. Jaclin Meade Scott
Anger is the most complex part of grief. It can cause tremendous physical change. Left unchecked, it can change your personality, and threaten your life. Yet it is the part of grief most avoided. It's hard. It hurts. It's justified. So why all the fuss? Leave me alone. I'll get over it eventually. Maybe I don't want to get over it. Right now, it's what makes it possible to get out of bed in the morning.
In cases of violent death, this is obvious. There is a target for the anger. Actually, the family is stuck in this grief phase because of this. So many times, after a killer is convicted, a family member will say "Maybe now we can find peace." Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Yes, it is absolutely acceptable to be extremely angry with the killer. At first. But thinking a conviction will change things is giving the killer the power over your healing. You are the only one suffering from this. The killer is untouched by it, and probably could care less. It is up to you, the angry one, to heal. To rely on the justice system is only delaying the inevitable. And to avoid recovery for all the years justice takes is asking for major trouble. By that time, you may have lost sight of who you were before. Venting anger only generates more anger. To live the rest of your life as an angry person has a horrible ripple effect on your family, friends, job, social life. And living thus does nothing to honor the one you lost. Bitterness, betrayal, resentment and powerlessness must be named and faced, head on.
The death of a young paerson also evokes this vicious reaction. It certainly isn't fair. It definitely isn't what was planned for the deceased. Not only have you lost a young loved one, but all the dreams, hopes and plans you had with and for that person are gone. You feel cheated and disappointed. Betrayed by nature, and by God.
People who get furious with God often feel uncomfortable about it at some level. There is guilt at being disrespectful. Guilt that maybe if your relationship with God had been better, God wouldn't have 'let' this happen. A faithful person may feel rejected by God. Or you feel abandoned, and turn your back.
The bottom line is, go ahead and be anry at God. God is big enough to take it, and the only Being who understands the whole situation perfectly. God is not punishing you or forgetting you. God is right there with you, crying with you, feeling your pain, holding you. Go ahead and climb into God's lap, and be comforted. If you have turned your back on God, know that whenever you come to your senses, God is waiting with open arms to take you back.
What then is the source of anger when a death is expected and prepared for? Fear and vulnerability get this prize. Who will protect me? How will I do everything the loved one always did? Is everything in order? Do I have what I need? Do I have help? How will I face people alone now? Will I be left out? Who am I, if not connected to that person?
These are some of the same questions of people divorcing. Divorce is the death of a relationship, if not a physical death of a partner. Yet the issues are the same. The outcome of not facing the grief is the same. The dangers are the same.
Anger that remains untreated turns into depression. "Oh, I'm not depressed. I just don't feel quite myself, that's all." That's depression, and it can only get worse, not beter, with time.
In our culture, there is no reason to go on this way. There are so many people trained to help you through it. It takes much less time than you think. Drugs are not automatically employed. Money need not be an issue. Reach out to a faith community, a hospital, hospice, a funeral home. Any of them can guide you to the people who can help you get your life back. Living well is the best way to honor the memory of the departed.
If you know someone who is having difficulty after a loss, intervene lovingly and gently.
If you know someone in the throws of deep depression, intervene energetically and radically. You could save a life.
And here is the key to defusing anger: Forgiveness. To you, to them.