Grief in one of those strange things in life that has tentacles reaching into many other areas of life. In fact, after sudden, tragic loss the emotions can make a man or a woman feel like they drowning in sadness. Grief feels very similar to depression, but it’s not depression. It can make us angry and irritable, but it’s not anger at it’s root. We can feel more lonely than ever before while grieving. Yet, grief is so much more than loneliness.
Because the grieving process is so depleting, we can experience severe anxiety. The anxiety can stem from traumatic loss or from the helplessness that often covers a person while grieving.
When you have a relationship with God, grieving can include some of the most disturbing emotions of your life. If you are mourning an enormous loss, then it’s not uncommon to experience anger that is more like mega-rage. Our soul cries out, “How could you let this happen?” The depressed mood of the grieving process only magnifies the feeling of being alone and isolated from God and people.
What about anger management techniques for the stages of bereavement that include rage? Yes, they can be useful at dealing with situations. But in the long run it’s better to reprocess the all the thoughts and feelings related to the tragic loss. This seems to do the most to get at the root of what’s making a person feel so miserable after loss.
Grief is a process that the brain goes through to make sense out of devastating loss. Tears and sadness are just a small part of the bigger process. There are aspects of the process that nearly everyone will experience after a loss. On the other hand, the way severe loss changes us is as unique as our own fingerprint.
I often think of recovery after loss as a kind of tunnel. There’s no avoiding the tunnel, though many spend years trying. There is a smart way to grieve that makes the passage through the tunnel much shorter. Each time we kick a rock or sprain our ankle, the anger can increase inside us. The frustration inherent in major loss goes beyond what anger management techniques can address. This is because it isn’t about getting past a few obstacles. The grief tunnel after traumatic loss creates a frustration that screams, “I don’t want reality to be this way!” And so, until acceptance is reached (far inside the tunnel), the anger can take the form of anger at God, ourselves, and anything that reminds us that reality is not what we want it to be.
This is where therapy comes in. Effective therapy for grief and loss means having a ‘Tunnel Guide’ that not only has experience getting people through the tunnel, but can understand you as an individual. Not everyone can step over the same rocks. The pathway through the tunnel needs to be customized to you as an individual.
More importantly, the lines that shape your experience of God have to be redrawn. Basic assumptions are shaken. Core beliefs about how the world works and what to expect from the Christian life get rattled. If grief therapy goes well, the net result is a deeper, stronger faith and a serenity that is more solid. All this makes for less anger at it’s root and then anger management techniques become more accessible and useful.
Gaining a spiritual wisdom about the role that suffering plays in our life is one of the most difficult aspects of following Jesus. It is especially difficult in the days, weeks, and months that stretch out after devastating loss. If one grieves wisely, the pain is usually shorter in duration, but no less intense while in the tunnel.