God designed each one of us with feelings, and they serve a purpose.
Widowhood comes with an assortment of emotions. Confusion, doubt, envy, bitterness, numbness, and anger can all accompany the much-expected feeling of sadness. It is not easy to watch others grieve. We want to fix the problem, yet God is the only one able to bring healing and restore the soul. Processing the death of a loved one is a journey that takes time, involving every single God-given emotion. Many of these normal, yet negative, emotions are uncomfortable to experience as much as they are to observe.
And anger is a normal response to pain, disappointment, and suffering. Even God gets mad.
Have you ever seen a child throw a tantrum? (Maybe that child was yours…it’s okay, we have all been there). From the outside, it simply looks like an out-of-control child with a parent or guardian standing helplessly by waiting for it to subside. Yet on the inside, there is a root to those outbursts of temper, frustration due to a momentary challenge. Perhaps the little one is unable to figure something out, complete a task they thought they would be able to, or maybe their limited vocabulary has stopped them from adequately expressing how they feel. Combined, these aggravations lead to a tantrum which may trigger even more anger!
The grieving widow experiences similar angry emotions while grieving the loss of her husband. She feels out of control, overwhelmed, alone, afraid, and unable to complete tasks without help. She is also physically, emotionally, and spiritually tired which contributes to feeling angrier.
Hear this, anger in grief is normal and unavoidable. When handled correctly, this emotion will allow the widow to address feelings she may have never felt before, moving her to a healthier place. However, she must be careful to manage this emotion, as it does have the tendency to get out of control.
10 Tips to Understanding the Angry Widow
- Anger is often stronger during the second year than the first. Most widows are surprised to learn that the second year is harder, and when they discover this to be true, they experience anger. They did not want to live a day without their loved one, much less an entire year. And when they realize that widowhood really is their reality, they are not only sad but mad. Mad that he is gone, mad at God, mad at those who do not understand (even close friends and family), and mad at herself for feeling angry.
- Anticipate moments of anger with her. Tender days (holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays) and events like weddings and funerals will require intentional emotional preparation. Not only will she feel sad that her husband is not with her but her sadness can turn into anger without warning. Take time to help her prepare for family gatherings or anticipated difficult conversations.
- Realize that anger comes with unexpected triggers. She will undergo a hard emotional response when experiencing a memory for the first time. Songs, pictures, and even faces from the past can bring about vulnerability causing her to feel angry about her situation.
- Be a safe and trusted friend she can talk to about her anger. We all need encouragement. Be a friend who will encourage her to be brave in this new season without her husband. Words of reassurance and affirmation are valuable. Listen with empathy letting her know she’s not going crazy.
- Let your words be few. Do not “sing songs to a troubled heart” (Proverbs 25:20). It is important not to force her to turn to the bright side or even share positive clichés or Bible verses, even the good ones on suffering. Allow her to release the steam of her emotions.
- Anger towards God is okay and normal. This is a scary place but is often a reality for the widow. And, this won’t be the first time God has been the target of anger. Wrestling is often part of the journey and working towards that place of rest takes time. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
- Anger is dangerous. Even though anger is normal and part of the process, Satan loves to knock on the door of our hearts with this emotion. Help her expose any roots of bitterness which easily start to grow from the pride of feeling that we would have written a better story for our life than God. Forgiveness is also another important tool in overcoming anger that leads to a bitter spirit. Ultimately, anger reigns when we do not surrender our suffering to God, trusting in His character of love, mercy, and kindness. He knows what is best for our lives and for His glory. Do not allow the enemy an opportunity to use anger against you. “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26).
- Understand that grief is a process. Sometimes she is angry because she realizes she cannot solve the problem of pain in one day. Provide a way for her to take a break from grief with an outing with friends or something to look forward to.
- Give her time. Be gentle, patient, and careful not to judge her. Healing takes time.
- Know that change is taking place. Grief changes us into a new person and that’s not a bad thing. Assure her that chaos is temporary and that she will find a new normal. God is at work creating something beautiful in and through her for His glory.
You will not be able to fix her circumstances or even her angry response to suffering. The Lord will shepherd her and is able to restore her soul. Stephen Ministries puts it best this way, “God is the cure-giver, we are the caregiver.”