Part of my job at the Pregnancy Care Centre for many years was talking about grief. Whether it was working with a client through her journey of pregnancy loss or training volunteers to do the same, I’m likely more familiar with the grieving process than many.
You’ve likely heard about the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and grief. Grief isn’t as neat and tidy as all that, but these steps do give a bit of a picture of the complexity of grief. Knowing all of this, I was still pretty surprised last night when I realized I’m living in some anger.
I went home a bit early from work, just needing a bit of space. The tears have been much more present lately, as the reality of what losing Mom actually looks like starts to sink in. I was driving home, tears streaming down my face and the thought that ran through my head was, “Dammit, Mom – don’t you know I need you to get through this?”
And then stopped short, realizing I was mad at my mom for dying, not being here to help me through this.
Super rational, right?
As I continued down that thought train a bit, it struck me – looks like we’re in anger. To be honest, I’m angry at a number of people right now. Not sure any of it is all that rational – it’s mostly a lot of grief. Doesn’t make it any easier, though. Trying to live life well, care for people when really all I want to do is either lash out at them or completely cut them off.
It makes me grateful for the things I’ve learned over the last number of years – from my parents, from my education and just life experience. Gaining emotional intelligence, learning the ability to stop and take a critical look at how I’m feeling before responding is an invaluable tool.
Anger can be a tricky one, hey? For many, it’s uncomfortable both in ourselves and in those around us. As Christians, we really tend to shy away from it, as it seems sinful. Except it’s not – anger is simply an emotion. Not right, not wrong, just an emotion. It’s what we do with that emotion that tends to mess things up.
The phrase “feelings are not facts” is continuing to run through my mind – who knew my daughter’s therapy would end up being so helpful for me? But it is so true. When you actually stop and take the time to analyze how you’re feeling and what’s actually beneath it, you can learn a lot. It’s a valuable practice for each of us personally, but also when we’re dealing with others. To realize that what is being expressed as anger from someone might actually be stemming from a place of fear or grief.
This is why the author of James reminds us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” That first line – “be quick to listen” – is so important. Listen for the underlying tones of fear. Listen for the story of loss or of trauma that that is the foundation to the words of anger. Really listen.
So that’s my instruction to myself for this season – to listen well to what I’m feeling, before I speak or respond out of the anger I’m feeling. Because while there might be all kinds of grace for the girl who is grieving her mom, I am still responsible for the words that come out of my mouth.