When anger gets the best of you

“If I allow anger to get the best of me, then I’ll have nothing left to give.”

I remember it so well.  I woke up angry that day. My mind was made up, or maybe I should say my heart was made up.

My son David had died a few months before and my emotions were all over the place. Shouldn’t we be allowed to just be angry that someone we love is gone?

Anger tends to feed us, drive us on these days. It’s not pretty or becoming. I usually hole up in my house when these emotions hit me, and God help those in the house if you know what I mean. Again. Not pretty.

My husband Mike was aware of my demeanor that day. He suggested we go to a sports bar for lunch. I REALLY didn’t want to go but reluctantly agreed. So, sporting our best Packer attire, we shared appetizers, sipped beer and watched football with others in the crowd.

I was starting to relax a little, at least until the woman next to us started getting a little over zealous in rooting her team on. She was sitting at the bar along with her husband and two young boys. I felt uneasy each time she spouted off, “Jeesus!” The entire restaurant could hear her. I found myself in a bad place.

I was just waiting for her to make a comment to us, whether it be regarding our Packer shirts or anything else for that matter. I was readying myself to call her out. I was prepared to comment on her repeated “prayers” to Jesus, all because her football team wasn’t performing the way she thought they should.

Really? She barked out Jesus’ name with such anger, arrogance and frustration. It was a stab in my heart every time. It grieved me on top of the grief I was already feeling. It angered me on top of the anger I was already feeling. My heart rate began to skyrocket.

Was I being judgmental or holier than thou in the moment? I suppose so, to a degree, but more than anything the reality of my situation began to spring to the surface as she spoke.

Bottom line, I speak Jesus’ name too, but the context is a bit different for me. David’s death encompasses my life. There’s no escaping it. My pain is as deep as I’ve ever experienced. Football games or heavy traffic have nothing to do with it.

Funny how some throw out His name in anger and no one blinks an eye, but when you cry out His name during suffering people look at you as if you have a third eye.

Yeah, I cry out to Jesus. I’m a Mom who lost her son! It hurts not having David here. I miss him so much. The fear of living in a constant state of discontent for the rest of my life has haunted me, especially in those early months and years following his death.

I know coping with anger is challenging, but adding in raw, excruciating pain makes it downright brutal. When you’re grieving, these two emotions intertwine just like a Chinese finger trap. It’s hard to break free, and the more you struggle, the tighter the grip becomes.

When left unchecked, anger becomes an offensive mechanism to prevent a defensive reaction.  It prevents us from confronting what we don’t want to think about, what we can’t quite put into words to begin with, and finally, what we feel will completely break us in the process if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to it.

This protective wall of anger we put up is not something that strong, courageous people do. It’s actually just the opposite. It’s something that broken people do in the midst of the worst pain they’ve ever encountered, but instead of protecting us, it pushes us deeper into the abyss. We can’t expect to get better if our hearts are hardened with anger.

I didn’t confront the mother that day. Mike thought it was in my best interest not to. Wise counsel. I have no doubt she would have had me for lunch! I haven’t been in a fight since, well, I’ve never been in a fight.

I think she was struggling that day too. Maybe she woke up angry just like me, and it played out as she watched a simple game of football. I’m guessing her anger and frustration wasn’t about the game, just as her behavior wasn’t at the core of mine. You never know how others may be suffering. I learned it’s best to keep judgement at bay.

How do you handle your anger?

This isn’t exclusively a grieving thing. This is a human thing. Our mood can potentially set the course for how we respond to others whose mood is also less than desirable. Some things will just set us off, and sometimes it all hinges on how well we’re handling our grief in that very moment. #emotionaltimebomb.

Acting out in anger begets more anger. It’ll eat you alive unless you tackle it, and you may not even see it coming. That’s what happened to me. I was sad and mad at the world when I left the house that day. I allowed the behavior of another to dictate mine. Yikes! This wasn’t my personality, but it was what I’d become.

Chalk it all up to grief lessons learned. I’m thankful for them. They’re what’s shaping and growing me through this journey.

* If I allow anger to get the best of me then I’ll have nothing left to give.

* I should’ve taken it to God to begin with, and trusted Him with the outcome. I know this would’ve prepared my heart before even stepping foot in the restaurant that day.

* Yes, even though I found her words offensive, I should’ve cut this Mom some slack, not knowing what she could’ve been going through at the time.

* I shouldn’t be surprised by the good, bad and ugly emotions I experience. As much as I shutter when emotional waves come crashing in, I also know the calm after the storm will follow. God is faithful. He has proven this over and over again to me. I’m not sure why I forget this!

No, I don’t have a third eye in the middle of my forehead, but I do have a gaping hole in my heart that only Jesus can fill. When we find ourselves in the darkest, deepest pit of despair, He is with us. Every time.

When you know who Jesus is, then you know how His sacrifice on the cross changes our outlook on everything. I know that David is in heaven. I know one day I’ll see him again. While I’m still broken, I am also very thankful. An odd combo to be sure, but hey, I’m still here aren’t I? I’m surviving! Truth be told, I was scared I wouldn’t. Believe me, this is something to be thankful for in and of itself.

Dear Friend,

Jesus’ name is more than just a name. If you want to know Him you have to know him, so I would encourage you to actually get to know Him. It just may change the way you think about Him, the way you talk about Him and talk to Him. You may end up realizing you’ve needed Him all along. I swear I won’t use the word ‘know’ again. Whoops.

God tells us it’s okay to be angry, but we need to know it can overtake us and lead to sinful behavior/actions. This can then present a whole new set of problems to stack on top of the ones we’re already trying to balance. Get professional help if you need to, but take it to God. Always take it to God. 

God bless you, and remember, you are not alone.

Jan

Promises

Ephesians 4:26

“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

John 20:31

“But these were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

 

Grieving on Mother’s Day.

“The pain we feel is a reflection of the love we have for the person we lost.”

A day just for Moms? It may be possible that this is the one time of year when eye rolls are replaced by hugs, cards and homemade gifts.

However, for those of us who have lost children, Mother’s Day is one of hardest days to endure.  It’s actually an excruciating day for a lot of people.

It hits me when spring arrives in Iowa. As much I look forward to and love this time of year, it also serves as a reminder of the events surrounding my son David’s death on June 6, 2010. He took his life that day after smoking a synthetic drug called K2. He was 18.

Cruise control kicks in, chasing away any thoughts I may have. I figure I have plenty of time to be sad during this season. I can put it off awhile and I tend to, but this defensive mechanism can only continue for so long. Eventually the coasting cycle begins, leaving me more vulnerable. The ache that’s been lurking under the surface slowly starts to demand my tears.

We feel pain because we loved. I may be stating the obvious but it’s worth digging into further. The pain we feel is a reflection of the love we have for the person we lost. Our tears are not wasted. Why would we want to avoid showing this emotion? Ultimately our tears honor those we lost. What a personal, intimate way to express our love for them! Let the tears come when you feel the dam giving way. Don’t ever hold back.

If you have other children, guilt can invade during this time too. You may not feel much like celebrating. You may want to crawl in a hole until the day is over. I’ve sure been there, especially that first Mother’s Day, but if we let that happen, we deny our family members the opportunity to express their love and appreciation for us. It’s important for them. They may need this for their healing. They’re hurting too, so we need to let them. More importantly, we need to receive it from them. Don’t deny others the opportunity to make you feel special.

I’m so thankful for God’s protection. He’s holding me together, without a doubt. Even though eight years have passed, I still need Jesus and our family needs each other to get through what will be a lifelong journey-the pain of losing our precious David.

How are you doing? Are you on cruise control, or are you coasting downhill at this point?

I know the emotional scenarios that fall under the umbrella of Mother’s Day are too numerous to count.

We find ourselves in one or more devastating camps; you may have lost your Mom or you never knew your Mom. Maybe you’ve struggled with infertility, are currently in the middle of a lengthy adoption process, or have had to release children whom you temporarily fostered. Maybe this day has you dwelling on what could have been, had you not made the choice you did years ago. Or maybe you’ve lost a child to miscarriage, SIDS, illness, accident, or suicide. I’m sure I’m missing some here.

Whatever your experience, my heart goes out to you. The aftermath from any one of these losses are devastating every day of the year, but there’s something about Mother’s Day…

I don’t have all the answers. I just want you to know you’re not alone. Put one foot in front of the other. Acknowledge what your heart can’t deny, then engage with family and friends who love you.

God is with you.

Psalm 34:18

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

God Bless you and Happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

How Easter encourages those who mourn

“…we don’t mourn as though we have no hope.”

Shopping for Easter dinner. Done. Dusting off that china you use once a year. (Good thing you put this on your wedding registry!) Done. Filling all of the plastic eggs with candy for the Easter egg hunt after church on Sunday. Done. Praying it won’t rain during the Easter egg hunt. Done. Making sure you have plenty of wine. Done. I’ll just let this one steep for a while. Don’t judge.

I’ve heard the Easter message repeatedly since I was a little girl and I’ve always thought I had a pretty good handle on it. It’s pretty clear-cut right? Jesus dies on the cross, they bury him and three days later he’s resurrected. End of story. Bring on the ham, cheesy potatoes and chocolate eggs.

When someone we love dies it forces us to re-evaluate what we think about life, death and everything in between. You think you know what you believe until you’re forced to face it straight on. Suddenly we’re thrust into a cyclone of options and opinions; what does society tell you to think? What about past family traditions? What does Oprah say? It’s hard to zero in on one solid truth. Enter Easter.

Easter picks up where Christmas left off. Technically 33 years have passed, but by this time Jesus had lived his life, teaching all who would listen about what would inevitability happen; his death on the cross, his resurrection and what our lives will look like as believers in the wake of it all.

After the death of my son David almost eight years ago, I found myself drawn to the Easter message. He didn’t die on Easter. He died in June. Weird huh? But every single time I tried to reconcile David’s death, and I’m talking repeatedly for years, it became more about living than dying.

I found myself having this inner dialogue because David was gone. I never thought about losing my children. I didn’t think it would ever happen. I figured I would go before them. I think it’s universal. Most of us don’t think too deeply about death.

I must have missed something profound in the Easter message.  Why else did I continually come back to it? I had to explore this, and I did. This is what I learned; while the message of Easter begins with Jesus’s death, it doesn’t stop there. It’s continual. It never ends.

John 14:25-27

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you: my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Ephesians 1:19-20

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised him from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”

We have in us the same power that raised Jesus from the grave.
Jesus knew his life would end but he also knew we would never have to live without him.

While I was searching for a deeper knowledge about God’s spirit in me, I was simultaneously being guided by his very spirit. Wow! What a great example of how his Holy Spirit has worked through my loss, pointing me to the message of the cross and the resurrection. Yep, he knows what we need and I am so thankful! Amazing!

Our family will always mourn David’s death, but we don’t mourn as though we have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

Today you’re either encouraged, confused, indifferent or just plain angry, and maybe, just maybe it’s because you haven’t soaked in the life changing message of Easter that follows Jesus’ death. Hope for the future can be found here. Hope is here. It never ends.

Happy Easter!

 

 

 

“The children were nestled all snug in their beds…”

“What can we do when the pain of our loss competes with the joy of Jesus’ birth?”

The kids are in bed and can’t wait for Christmas morning. The first ray of sunlight appears to announce the day. The sound of tiny feet follow. It’s Christmas!  Before you take your first sip of coffee, the surge of questions begin: “Did Santa come?” “When can we open our presents?” “What’s for breakfast?”

Maybe you have adult children. You look forward to their arrival, and breathe a sigh of relief when they’re all finally under the same roof after a long day of travel. Ahhh. All is well with the world. You know that feeling. And yes, they still want to know what’s for breakfast!

There’s something wonderful about having family together.

Christmas 2004 comes to mind. Our niece was in the Army. She’d just finished serving a tour in Iraq. Although she was back in the states, we knew she wouldn’t be able to join us for Christmas in the north woods of Wisconsin. Everyone else would be there but her. Wait for it…

Someone whispered in my ear, “Kim will be here for Christmas!” Oh gosh, I could hardly contain myself!

We all screamed with joy when Kim finally walked through the front door. Of course Mike’s Mom cried, which started a chain reaction. Hugs followed. This was “the best Christmas ever!” I thought my heart would burst! I felt that “all was well with the world” feeling again. We were all together. Life was good.

While you may not be able to celebrate with everyone in your family this year, let them know they’ll be missed and tell them you love them.

Christmas traditions that once included friends or family members who have since passed away are especially difficult. It’s hard to turn from our sadness to be able to embrace the joy of what Christmas is all about. I know it’s not easy.

I don’t know about you but after the hustle and bustle of getting the tree up and decorated, buying and wrapping the gifts, the mind has more space to fill. Maybe you can’t bring yourself to hustle or bustle this year. Sadness may creep in as we’re staring straight into the celebratory face of Christmas without those we lost.

What can we do when the pain of our loss competes with the joy of Jesus’ birth?  It feels like an oxymoron to feel them both simultaneously, but we do.

It’s normal to feel as if you’re being pulled in different emotional directions. You need to acknowledge you’re hurting because someone you loved has died. Your tears are proof of that. The pain is proof of that. At the same time, God wants you to know that Jesus’ birth is proof of his love for you.

The heart requires us to feel whatever we’re feeling. The emotions need to come out anyway right? Taking time to cry, pray or read encouraging Bible verses can be cleansing, and may be helpful prior to meeting with family or friends. Just go with it. It’s a human response to our devastating loss.

So much has happened since our ‘miracle’ Christmas. I could have never imagined we would lose our son David six years later, or that Grandma Rozga would pass away on Christmas Eve 2011. They are greatly missed.

I long for the days when David was safe and sound, under the same roof. His smile was contagious. I miss watching him play football in the snow with his brother Daniel, and making the ole standby, Swiss Miss hot chocolate for them after. On Christmas morning he was always the first one up to see what Santa brought.

I swear I can actually feel my heart ache when the memories flood in, but at the same time I know he is safe and nestled close to Jesus in Heaven; the one we celebrate now. He isn’t home, but he is home.

While life is still very hard without him, I have been able to find moments of peace while still living on this side of Heaven.

Oh, and the answer to the question?… I suppose it’s not rocket science but do the best you can. You can be sad and celebrate at the same time. Give yourself permission to do both, and try to engage with others who are hurting as well. Most of all, know that God loves you more than you can imagine. You are not alone in this journey.

Dear Friend,

I hope you’ll take uninterrupted time for yourself to just feel the emotions of missing the person(s) who have died. Don’t ignore what your heart is aching for you to acknowledge, because it can only stay bottled up for so long. This is no guarantee you won’t struggle during your gatherings, but it may lessen it a bit. Life continues to change for all of us. Cherish those in your life now, and accept the bitter with the sweet of the season.  God Bless you and Merry Christmas.