Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part IV
As we continue this series, today will look at the second stage of the 5 Stages of Grief, ANGER. I remember one being told that “a good Christian never get angry” and being a young immature believer I thought that to be true, NOT!!! Christ was angry, are we not to follow His example? The difference is He had and so should we righteous anger at things that were an abomination against the Law(s) of God. One of the best explanations for this can be found here.
Of course in the grief process, the Anger with which we are concerned is slightly different. After the initial onslaught of emotions, including phase 1, denial, usually comes anger. Folks can be angry at any number of people or things and their anger can range from pent-up emotions to physical outbursts. Their anger is a result of their having lost control of the situation.
Some typical objects of anger are:
- Themselves – Why couldn’t I help, I could have been there, I could have done something…
- God -Why would God allow that to happen?
- The deceased, or infirmed – How could they leave me?
- The healthcare providers – They could have done more, they didn’t do enough, …
- Hospitals – The VA *^#*^, We should never have admitted them there,
- Anyone Offering Help – You don’t understand, you can’t know how I am feeling
Some Symptoms of Anger to look for are:
- Irritability especially if it gets very bad
- Ongoing preoccupation about what happened and why
- Addictive or harming behaviors to self or others
- Anxiety, Fear, Depression
- There may be behavioral overreactions(outburst)
What can we do?
Again I can only go off my years first in counseling and then the practical application of all I learned when I have counselled others:
- First is empathy and not simple sympathy especially in this stage. Someone who is angry even if not at you can easily turn on you (see last point above.
- Second, allow the person to be angry, they need to get it out and not internalize it so it festers and grows malignant. Now of course we do not want them acting out harmful anger at themselves or others.
- Try and ask probing questions, with grace and CAUTION, to get to the root of the anger, why are they angry, what is the true source of their anger.
- If possible, offer to help them face the challenge, pray with them at a bedside, hold a prayer service, escort them to a funeral or gravesite, maybe speaking with hospital administration or a doctor…
- Of course, if they seem stuck in the anger stage of grief, we need to make every effort to refer them to a certified Christian therapist, grief counselor, or psychologist.
Remember our job is to provide Care, Comfort, and (Short Term) Counsel while these individuals are assigned to us. We are not (at least most are not) long-term counselors, let us leave that to those professionals and be what God has called us to be Ministers/Chaplains.