I have the window open this morning. Not because it's hot inside, by any means, but so I can hear the robins singing. Every morning they serenade our neighborhood and encourage the warmer weather to stick around. Lately, the weather hasn't been taking their melodious pleas into account. I'm glad the robins keep singing, though. It does make the mornings all the more beautiful. I've got the curtains opened as well, to let in as much sunlight as possible. Sunlight has become literal fuel for me. Fuel to keep hoping, though for what, I'm not entirely sure. I feel like if the sun is shining, there is less for me to worry about. Less for me to fret over. Something about the bright and warmth gives me clarity and peace of mind. Perhaps it's because the plentiful sunlight signals a sure change in the seasons, and we can say the dark days of winter of behind us once again.
I'm a fickle individual when it comes to change. I typically resist change when it's implemented or introduced by someone other than myself. When I get "funky", as Brent and I call it, ("funky" in our speak means down in the dumps, in a literal funk) one guaranteed cure-all for me is to rearrange furniture. I have always loved switching up my living space. It's something new, it's something I created, and most importantly, it's an environment I control.
You caught that, right? I'm not sure there's a one of us who doesn't like to have control, or say, in the matters that take place in our lives. The fact that none of us could have done anything differently to change the outcome of Harlynn's birth, that we couldn't control or change those circumstances, left a deep wound on our hearts. Sometimes when the wounds are deep and there is nothing we can do, our feelings of helplessness turn to feelings of inward seething. Anger.
Anger is tough emotion to pin down, let alone write about. It comes in so many different forms, and is brought on by so many different variables. Usually, anger is associated with yelling, fighting, slamming doors, swearing, and a whole host of outward bursts of rage. In grief, however, it can take on a different persona altogether. I've found in my own journey, I've wanted to scream. I've wanted to hit things. Or people. I've wanted to throw something. But only in my head. I don't have the energy, or the nitty-gritty desire do actually do any of those things. When I've been angry in my grief, I tend to shut down. I don't want to talk, I don't want to be talked to, I don't want to be around, or see, or listen to anyone or anything. I simply want to be. I have no one to blame, I have no one to label as responsible for my daughter's death, I have no one to hold accountable for her not being here. I have nowhere and no one to direct my anger toward. So yelling, slamming, swearing - none of that would do a bit of good, not even for me. It wouldn't make me feel better to rage along for no "productive" reason. So I sit. And seethe. (Seethe: be filled with an intense, but unexpressed anger.)
As Christians especially, we feel that allowing ourselves to be angry - let alone express that anger - is playing with fire. And it can be. However, in the context of grief, anger is such a normal, natural, and honest emotion. I would caution you in two ways: Do not let your anger consume you, yet at the same time, do not ignore your anger.
This is a tricky topic to tackle, and short of turning this post into it's own series, I'm going to summarize my points as best as possible. There is a lot of room for discussion, and certainly more points could be made, but I'm keeping my focal lens small for the sake of your attention, and my cause.
There are so many things that will stir up anger in a grieving person's heart. The situation itself, of course, (the unfairness, injustice, randomness, etc.) being at the top of the list. Then there is how you're treated by others, what they say, what they don't say, fear, confusion, new situations that arise, being put in further uncomfortable situations, being hugged when you don't want to be touched, not being touched when you need a hug, losing control over the smallest of things when you already feel helpless to begin with - all of these and so many more, stir anger. Resentment. Seething. There is no adequate way to express the grieving anger. It can seem a very desolate, lonely, dark place. When there is no outlet for expression, there often times seems to be no available resolve.
The Bible is laden with warnings against anger. It seems like every time you read of someone becoming angry, someone - or lots of someones - ended up dying. Whole civilizations wiped out because someone got angry. This is where I caution another in anger. If left unaddressed, it can certainly create strife, bitterness, and a whole host of trouble. I'm not going to delve into the theological differences in anger and righteous anger (though please know, those exist), but I do want to point out some encouragement.
1 Corinthians 13 is what we've deemed the "chapter of love". It may have been read at your wedding. Or a wedding you attended. Love is patient, love is kind..... "it is slow to anger". You know what that says to me? You're going to get upset. You're going to get mad, but just cool it when it happens. I myself, am not "slow to anger". I tend to go from 0 to pissed in one second flat. Over the years, however, what has slowed is my acting out in my anger. I tend to think more before speaking or reacting. And it's done a lot more good than harm since learning that discipline. In grief, however, anger seems to appear slowly, more often than not because it takes a while to recognize anger is the emotion you're feeling. We try so hard to suppress so many feelings, when anger rises within us, it takes even longer to realize what it actually is.
Ephesians 4:26, another verse that is quoted often times in relation to marriage begins with "In your anger, do not sin." Again - you're going to get angry. Why? Because it's human nature. There are things that should make us upset (the point of righteous anger), and because it is a feeling stirred by convictions (and unfortunately, often fed by desires), we will get angry. The key is to not sin in our anger. Don't seek revenge. Don't become eternally bitter. In order to not become bitter, however, I think it's important to recognize anger when you feel it, confront it, and address it. That may be as ordinary as saying, "Okay. I'm angry." It may need journaling. Counseling. Long walks in solemn reflection. Please don't ignore it, or avoid it, or think it will just eventually go away, however. That will give rise to a parasitic inflammation of ire within you. It will take over, and by then, it will be too late.
Outwardly expressing anger in grief, at least in my case, feels like expressing sadness more than anything. Again, the feeling of vulnerability and helplessness in not being able to have any control, or say, or ability to change the outcome, gives way to a buckling of pride and worth that leaves me on my knees. I'm sad, absolutely, and I'm more than upset because there's nothing I can change about losing Harlynn. Nothing.
I have only one more part to address, I think, so part IV will be forthcoming. Thanks for sticking around so far. I hope it's been helpful to you, and given you a glimpse into the heart and mind of a grieving heart.
To be continued...