Love one another. Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Ephesians 4:2 GNT
Who of us has not lost someone we love? The loss of someone precious is as pregnant with meaning as our hearts feel hollow. Those of us who have been forced to bury a child understand this full well. There is an agony that plunges a knife so deep it defies expression. What of anger? Does it plumb the depths of one’s heart?
I would never have put anger and agony in the same sentence before I lost my firstborn to suicide, but now it makes perfect sense to write about them together. Agony is an emotion that quickly overcomes us when there is the sudden death of a beloved child. What of anger? Can it make a sudden appearance, too? No surprise if it does, really, since anger is a secondary emotion to pain, and who wouldn’t be in pain at such a time?
Anger probably loitered in the shadows of my mind ~ not much to justify its activation ~ until tragedy struck. In the face of sudden sorrow I became “unhinged” with both agony and anger; I could not tell the feelings of either emotion apart. It seemed they were destined to be my constant companions for the unforeseeable future.
As I reread the above admonition in Scripture, it reminded me that I had failed, and failed miserably, to follow it in the illustration I am about to share. This story is not pretty. It is an example of raw rage I experienced while feeling totally helpless in the face of losing my firstborn to suicide, the dreaded killer of so many of our young people.
After the shocking and horrific news from the police that we had lost our son, it wasn’t long before the word had passed through the family. Within hours of receiving the news, out-of-town relatives began to arrive, surrounding us with the familiar warmth of those who also loved our son. With tear-stained faces they reached out to embrace us, and attempted to provide a few words of comfort. What could anyone say that would comfort my shattered heart? I was not listening. Couldn’t hear. The fog that filled my brain left me unable to think or feel either, except I overheard one conversation clearly. Probably too clearly.
It doesn’t matter who said it, but I happened to be within earshot when she began to speak. Apparently the news had shaken her, and she needed to tell someone. I should have stepped away at the first few syllables, but for some unknown reason, I stayed put. The longer I listened, the angrier I became as she explained, in detail, the sympathetic responses of her teammates who hugged her and cried with her as she shared the news of our loss. In my messed-up, freaked out, frazzled mind, I took a different approach. Instead of feeling empathy towards her, I thought to myself: you would think this was HER child!
I don’t remember the size of her audience except to say that what I did next probably embarrassed them all. Enraged, I came unglued and, like a mama bear defending her cubs, I stepped in her space, grabbed her collar with both hands, got nose to nose, and hissed in her face, “How I wish he were only a distant relative, but HE WAS MY SON!”
Silence fell around us like dried-out Christmas tree needles. Realizing what I had just done, I let go of her, backed away, and said nothing more. In the moment I felt nothing but anger. It never occurred to me to approach her with a civil tone and to make peace on the spot. Only minimal words were exchanged between us from then until she departed. She could not walk in my shoes. She had no conception of how broken I was ~ how much suffering was going on in my mind, body, and emotions. About all I could think was just breathe.
As I write these words now, I can still tap into my reaction and feelings at the time; the anger has drained away, but not the ache in my heart. I will add that some time later she and I were able to talk about this experience and come to an understanding which improved our relationship. I am not proud of my outburst back then, but I share the raw footage in case there are readers who feel embarrassed about situations that occurred during their time of crushing grief. We are emotional beings, and we agonize over loss. It’s as complex as that.
As humans, we can erupt into rage during unspeakable grief. Maybe some readers remained calm and in control, but there are probably many more who lost it a time or two in the rough days and months following loss. I am not seeking approval of my behavior, but I believe you understand, especially if an anger issue of your own comes to mind.
The truth is: one will likely experience a myriad of emotions as part of the healing process. Grief causes many emotions, some of which may never have been tapped into before loss. Grief can bring out the worst at such a time. Agony and anger may make strange bedfellows, but they aren’t strangers. Both are emotions. Both erupt after death. Both likely tag along until the fog clears, reality sets in, and we are able to acquiesce a measure of acceptance and peace.
The time I have spent writing has helped me realize that God actually cares a great deal about our children; after all He loved them, too. The bigger picture, I believe, is this: every child who dies is His precious child, His awesome creation, His beloved. Loving our children that much, He both understands and sympathizes with the emotions we feel.
For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. John 3:16 AMP
Scripture shared from Good News Translation (GNT) and Amplified Bible (AMP)