Few women become widows without wrestling with the sticky emotion of anger. In those early days, it may be masked under grief and later muted by depression. But few women go through the journey of widowhood without that adrenalin producing, stomach churning emotion.
First lets banish the notion that anger is sin. It is a normal emotion. Jesus felt it. God expressed it, and one must admit that its an energizing force. The question for us as widows is when and how can we appropriately acknowledge it, address its cause, and figure out how to move forward in a positive way.
If you have read what I’ve posted on friendships, you know (and may have experienced) loss of people in your life that you expected to stand by you as a single person. And it hasn’t happened. While anger is a normal response, it is unproductive in those situations. Most of us find that we must forgive, even if those ‘friends’ never apologize for abandoning us. We simply must forgive in order to move on and invest our energies in new friendships given our new status.
Many widows have contacted me angry about injustices related to their husband’s businesses, finances, and people who’ve taken advantage of them in their time of grief and vulnerability. One even stated she had to return to his grave site and scream out her frustration at how their business partner had taken advantage of her upon her husband’s death.
This was a healthy step for her, did no injury or damage, (no one yelled back at her!) and helped her vent.
Living in a real world, family can be unfair and take advantage, organizations can be insensitive at best or even harmful, and even discoveries about our husband’s financial errors or lack of planning for us can be the culprit. If your husband’s death was due to suicide, anger is typically intense. Widows have allowed me to glimpse their journey through that, as well as other tough discoveries. I can report to you that many are moving forward positively. We all can. We have that option.
Rather than go into the anatomy of anger, I’d like to offer some simple thoughts on moving forward.
Don’t ignore your anger. Acknowledge it and determine at whom and why you are angry.
Resolve to address your anger in a God honoring way. Ephesians 4:26 states “Be angry, and yet do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger. (NASB)
Don’t act or speak until you’ve had time to do the hard personal work of identifying at whom and why you are angry. (Personal note: I needed to address with God why my husband died of ALS. In my book One Widow to Another: Conversations About the New You, you might find that helpful. p. 173)
Follow the direction of Ephesians 4:26 and create a God honoring plan to address the problem. Some widows have found it necessary to seek justice in the court of law for wrongs done. I have a young widow friend who must endure a lengthy court battle due to a wrongful death issue with a large company. Putting a plan in place will help you sleep even though the process may take months or years.
Forgiveness is essential. It is likely that you and I will need large doses of forgiveness for folks who don’t ask forgiveness (they may be oblivious to our pain) and perhaps seem even undeserving. I return to Jesus’ example with forgiving me and lean heavily on Him to help me do that. When Jesus was asked how many times we should forgive, He stated 70 times 7 which means forever, eternally, never giving up!
Remember that ‘fair,’ ‘just,’ ‘right,’ is not guaranteed here on earth. Only heaven will get and make everything right.
Set boundaries in relationships for self-protection. I liken this to ‘shaking the dust off your sandals and moving on,’ instruction Jesus gave to his followers when they landed in a place that would not accept them and their message for who they were and who and what they represented.
Two things are helpful to us moving forward. One is displacement–filling our minds with positives and counting our blessings instead of fuming. Another is physical exercise. Anger produces adrenaline which needs to be directed somewhere. I choose to swim vigorously, take a brisk walk, and attack weeds!
So my friend, lean heavily into your faith to do the hard work of forgiveness. You’ll move forward in your new life with new freedom.