3 Steps to Take When Grief Makes You Angry

Has grief ever made you angry?

I'm not by nature an angry person. It's not my default mode, and I seldom deal with everyday life in an angry way, but recently I got mad.

When I realized I was mad at my sister-in-law Kay, who died almost two years ago,  I wondered if I was losing it.

We were preparing to celebrate a family birthday with my in-laws. As we decided who would bring what dish to the potluck meal, there was a big gaping hole when we got to the question of the cake.

"Kay always made the cake," my husband said.

But Kay is no longer with us. She went home to be with the Lord two summers ago.

And I was left baking the cake.

And boy, was I mad.

In a sad sort of way.

I wasn't mad because I had to bake the cake. I was mad because there was going to be yet another celebration that wasn't quite a celebration any more. A member of my family who was supposed to be there wasn't. Not any more. Not ever again. And that made me angry.

My friend Renee' will graduate from college next month. And her father won't be in the audience clapping and cheering for her. He died when she was three.

And she's angry. In a sad sort of way.

And then there's my neighbor, whose husband paid every bill and balanced the checkbook every month for over 50 years. This month she has to do it alone.

And she's angry, too. In a sad sort of way.

My friend, Buffy Crabtree, a grief counselor and author of the book Grieving God's Way, tells me it's normal. She says people often manifest feelings of deep sorrow in anger. It's a natural response when someone precious has been taken from us, and we are left to carry on. Whenever we reach a milestone in our lives that our loved one should be a part of, whether it's small, like a birthday party, or huge, like a graduation or wedding, we grieve all over again. Sometimes we express this  grief in anger instead of sorrow.

In her book, she shares three ways to deal with angry grief constructively:

1. We can take comfort in the knowledge that God understands when we hurt and longs to wrap His healing arms around us. Being honest with God about our emotions allows Him to console us.  Remembering that even Jesus grieved at the tomb of a beloved friend reminds us that He understands every bit of pain we feel.

2. It's important to express our feelings, not stifle them. Talking with a spouse, friend, Sunday School teacher, or other empathetic listener doesn't change our circumstances, but it reminds us we are not alone.

3.  If we feel our anger is difficult to manage, out of control, or destructive to ourselves or others, it's important to secure the help of a trusted counselor, pastor, or friend. They can help us channel our anger into more constructive expressions of grief and bring us one step closer to healing.

As a believer, I have the comfort of scripture to remind me that the empty place around our celebration table isn't forever. One day soon, I will sit around a celebration table with my sister-in-law Kay, my sister Cindy, and my brother-in-law Luther, and we'll hear the announcement from the throne saying:

"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev. 21:4).

And we'll eat cake together.

Helpful Resources and Books:

1.Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love by Raymond Mitsch
2.  GriefShare –
3. Recovering from Losses in Life by H. Norman Wright
4. Why? Trusting God When You Don’t Understand by Anne Graham Lotz
5. The Anger Workbook: A 13-Step Interactive Plan to Help You by Les Carter, Ph.D and Frank Minirth,MD.

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1 comment:

  1. Great post, Lori--thorough and helpful for people struggling with grief. I don't know that I've ever experienced anger about those I've lost, but I sometimes feel sorry for myself to be without them. My mom died when I was in my 40's and my mother-in-law had her mother until she was in her mid-70's and I used to think...she got 30 more years that I got, not fair. Bless you for writing and sharing and thanks for linking to B&BB. I'm praying for you this week, hoping God blesses you bigtime.