When death takes our child from us, we can be surprised and even scared at how much anger there is inside of us. It can be even more shocking to realize who the cause of our anger is, as it is often not just someone who was directly involved in our child’s death (like a drunk driver or an actual murderer). We can also be angry at
- Our family and friends for telling us things like we need to “just get over it”
- Someone indirectly related to the death (like a spouse or babysitter for not keeping a closer eye on our child)
- Ourselves (if only I had…)
- God (why didn’t you stop it?)
- Our child for leaving us
Did I just say that? Yes, if you are angry at your child, let me say as awful as that sounds, you can breathe a sigh of relief because it is NORMAL! Especially if the death was by his or her own doing, either directly or indirectly.
And if you are angry at God right now, that’s also typical. We all know God could have stopped it. I have so many testimonies of times in Becca’s life when He did step in and miraculously spared her life. So why didn’t he do it again on October 12, 2011?
There is no answer that will satisfy that question. Even if God reveals the answer this side of heaven, it won’t be a good enough reason. I would find myself acting like a teenager, telling my Dad it isn’t fair, and that His answer isn’t a good enough one to cause this kind of anguish and pain in my life.
So how do we get past that kind of anger and blame? Is it even possible?
Yes, it is, but it is a choice we must make. This choice is not based on our feelings. It is not based on if that person deserves it. It is based on the fact that I don’t want to stay in this suffocating darkness any longer, and I will do whatever it takes to step toward hope and light for my life.
Dennis Apple, who was a pastor when his son died, shares in his book Life After the Death of My Son how he was disappointed and angry with God. Dennis says he was “hanging out near the back door of my faith,” and for a long time he refused to say or sing the phrase, “God is good all the time.”
How did he get past that? Dennis states as he came to a crossroads, he asked himself a couple of questions: Do I believe there’s a sovereign God who knows and sees all, including my suffering over the loss of our son? Am I going to trust in this sovereign God whom I don’t always understand? After wrestling with these questions for a long time, he was able to say through painful tears, “Yes, I believe in Him, and yes I will trust Him”.
His wife Beulah also made a conscious decision after several years of deep grief. Did she want to remain in this same dark place she had been in for almost five years, or did she want to come out of it and make the best of her life and her family that was still here? She chose to “lay aside the garment of grief and mourning, sweep up the ashes that surrounded her, and go on.” It was a turning point for both her, and their marriage.
Angela Alexander, Executive Producer of the documentary movie Miracles in Action, based on her book with the same title, believes one of the keys to getting past the anger is to share with others. “We overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony,” Revelation 12:11.
“What testimony?” you ask? The one God is still writing in your life. Angela has had to overcome the death of two brothers, the loss of a baby during pregnancy, a husband who miraculously survived a brain aneurysm (only to have to learn how to do everything again from eating, talking and walking), a brother murdering their sister who was Angela’s life-long very best friend, and then the death of two of her sons in a bizarre car accident (while she was on military duty in Japan). Wow! How can she possibly write a book titled Miracles in Action after all of that?
Because Angela believes a testimony comes from being tested, and that we can come out the other side filled with God’s love, forgiveness and mercy, which are truly miracles in action.
However, in the time of deep dark testing for the testimony, we have to grasp the truth that our anger and unforgiveness can block God’s blessings from us. Too often we think by remaining angry at someone, we are holding them hostage. But forgiveness is actually a gift you give to yourself. You will remain a prisoner of your anger until the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change. And that means making the choice to forgive, and releasing yourself from your crippling emotional prison.
And don’t believe the saying, “Forgive and forget.”
Angela readily admits, “Some pain you won’t forget, but through forgiveness, understanding, and love, you can remember the events from a different perspective.”
The founder of Grief, Grace and Gratitude and author of Grief: A Mama’s Unwanted Journey, Shelley Ramsey talks about how angry she got at how other people treated her after the death of her son that she basically isolated herself for five years. How does Shelley recommend getting past that place of anger? If you are angry, let God have it! Yell at Him. “Go outside and scream at the top of your lungs. Say whatever you need to say. Cry as long and as hard as you want. Throw something if you need to.” He can take it! And then, ask Him to bring people into your life who will hold you, cry with you, and remember your child with you.
I address the issue of anger in several of my books as well. In My Grief Journey: A Coloring Book and Journal for Grieving Parents, here is what I wrote about the word anger:
There are a few who don’t get angry at God, but most parents who have lost a child through death definitely feel this emotion toward Him. And it’s okay. He can take it. Yell at Him; have it out with Him!
Yes, He could have moved His hand and stopped the death of your child and mine. But He didn’t do it, for reasons we cannot see or understand.
Most often, our anger at God comes when we think of our loss more than our child’s gain; our pain keeps us from trusting that God can see the big picture, and knows something we don’t know.
There are others we can be angry with as well, for all kinds of reasons.
It is okay to be angry, and to work through it. But for your own sake, please don’t camp out in this place.
Dennis, Shelly and Angela are speakers at the Hope & Healing Virtual Summit, that you can watch on video in your own home via the internet, along with sixteen more sessions with other bereaved parents who are speakers, authors, grief experts and founders of grief organizations and ministries.
Click here for more information on the Hope & Healing Virtual Summit.