Then he turned to the man and said, ‘Hold out your hand!’ And as he stretched it out, it was restored, exactly like the other.” Matthew 12:13 TPT
How we engage with one another in a time of loss and bereavement can make or break a family. It is very easy to rationalize and justify our anger, and very difficult to accept that we may not know enough about a situation to speak factually.
Are we willing to hold one another's hands, or are we clenching our fists in anticipation of a fight?
It is very easy in the course of bereavement and the emotional upheaval a loss creates to become stranded in one of the 5 Stages of Grief and Loss, also known as the 5 Stages of Death and Dying.
The 5 Stages of Grief & Loss we're created by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross. They are as follows:
I can relate to being stuck in the anger phase. Something interesting happens to the brain when we’re angry. The fight/flight part of the brain (amygdala) sees increased blood flow, which deprives the frontal lobe of the brain of the vital blood flow and oxygenation it needs to engage in its operation of executive function (you can read additional information on the subject here).
During the Anger Stage, which is encountered on a spectrum that ranges from mild irritation, all the way to intense rage, it is often accompanied by acting out behaviors. It is very difficult, if not impossible to predict its duration or how someone will cope with this intense form of stress during this phase. When the logic center of the brain is compromised by anger, a person becomes vulnerable to thinking negatively and possibly behaving aggressively.
“Why do I bring it up”, you might be asking?
I bring it up because I've been through it and it's traumatizing. So, I am sharing my experience to inform, educate, and inspire others who are struggling with anger while grieving the loss of a loved one.
Research has proven that anger comprises our judgment, decision-making, and interaction with others (read a Harvard research abstract on the subject here).
When we’re angry, the brain conjures up conspiracy theories, distorted thoughts, and blatant lies about God, ourselves, or others. If we stay in this place of anger too long, eventually the anger will overflow, spilling out on our family, friends, or loved ones. Like boiling water, it burns. It can permanently destroy relationships. As we say in recovery, “once the eggs are scrambled, they can't be unscrambled.”
Stretch out your hand of power through us to heal, and to move in signs and wonders by the name of your holy Son, Jesus!” Acts 4:30 TPT
Anger is very natural. We shouldn't deny it, or try to avoid it, but rather accept it as a natural psychological response to grief and loss. I've had to be mindful to keep my anger in check by bringing it to God. I hold myself accountable to other men in the church, and the Celebrate Recovery group I attend weekly. I also see a therapist to work through the trauma.
It's important to seek pastoral care, therapy, or find a support that works for you and helps you to cope.
Nobodies perfect. We all make mistakes, and hopefully, we're humble enough to learn from those mistakes.
I encourage you (the reader) to talk to God, or someone you trust about your anger. Don't point fingers, don't clench your fists, just gracefully extend your hand in a gesture of healing and understanding.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Jeremy Evans
*Please forgive my brevity, I am blogging from my iPhone.