Mad at God!
Father Chris Heller explains that anger is a very strong emtion that accompanies grief. Many times that anger gets directed toward God because, as humans, we ultimately see him as in contorl and since our grief has left us totally out of control, we are looking for someone to blame. Chris goes on to explain that God is a big God and that he can handle our anger and our blame. He shares that God hurts with us and does not abandon us even though we may fear that He has. God walks with us on our grief journey and that your becoming angry with God may be an indication of how deeply one of God’s creations touched your life, how deep your feelings of loss are, and how you have begun to realize that all of us are connected with God and one another in a single circle of life.
by Chris Heller
The death of a loved one is often accompanied by strong feelings, including anger. You might be angry with a doctor or medical professional or clergy person that you hold responsible for your loved one’s death. You could be angry with a member of your family. You could also be angry with yourself over lost opportunities with the recently deceased person. You may even speak with angry feelings to the person who has just died, as in “how could you just go and leave me?” or [fill in the name of your loved], you were 97 years old, but your death came too soon.”
Many people also direct their anger toward God in one way or another when a loved one dies. Why God? Why hold God responsible?
For one thing, Americans often insist that those in top positions be held responsible when something goes wrong. So, when death is viewed as a sadness and a loss, we want someone to be accountable, and we go “right to the top.” We demand an explanation from God and “call God on the carpet.”
Here are some angry moments people reported they directed toward God:
Where was God when my child (or lover, friend, spouse or relative) needed divine help?
I haven’t been a churchgoer and I don’t pray much, so God didn’t listen to my prayers.
God plays favorites. I’m not high on God’s list, but isn’t God supposed to love us all?
Maybe God is not in command of my life in all its stages, and my faith in God is a mistake.
God “took” my loved one suddenly or unexpectedly. God’s action is not just or fair.
God could have prevented my loved one from dying. God has betrayed or cheated us.
I’m not going to church anymore. What’s the use? God doesn’t do what I want anyway.
You may have heard other reasons for being angry with God, and you may even have other reasons in your heart as to why you hold God responsible. Here are some practical ways of getting through the difficult moments, hours and days following the death of your loved one.
If you want to blame God, go ahead.
God can absorb our feelings and words of blame without personal harm or injury. We cannot hurt God.
Like humans who love us unconditionally and yet also strongly disagree deeply on the events we encounter in daily life. His relationship with us is built to last longer than individual events or experiences, even the most important ones.
God knows what is truly in our hearts. God is long-suffering and is not easily offended. To be sure, this is not to say that we should encourage conscious and regular disrespect toward God. It is to say that God understands.
Blaming God for someone’s death is the opening movement in a much longer personal story.
In assigning blame to God, we are trying to “make sense” out of what essentially is not a rational or logical step but a mystery. As often as we have sung or said or heard the words of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, “there is a time and a season for every purpose under heaven,” we tend to block out those things that make us uncomfortable.
Most people try to avoid, delay or deny even talking about death because it is out of our human control or domain. We do not like facing the fact that there are limits even on human life.
While everyone grieves according to his or her time clock and in his or her own way, everyone needs to vent feelings and thoughts about loved ones that have died.
You are no exception. It is much healthier to find one friend, family member or faithful companion who is willing and able to listen to your grieving pain than to stifle your feelings and pretend they are not there.
Most clergy are trained to listen to people, particularly those in crisis, as are many family doctors. In the absence of a trusted friend or a professional listener or counselor, some people find keeping a journal or diary helpful to record and monitor their feelings.
It may come as a surprise later that your feelings, even angry ones, may change over a period of time. Overall, it is important that you give yourself permission to express your anger in appropriate ways, rather than internalizing the pain and sadness.
Holding God responsible for the death of a loved one may sound shocking to some people. But the death of another is also an event that affects us and our relationships.
Take a moment to review the words in the Christian Gospel of John that Jesus prayed on the cross prior to his own death. The words first appear in the earlier Hebrew scripture known at the Twenty-third Psalm: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Jesus had feelings of being abandoned by God, even while God had no intention of abandoning Jesus. God the Creator was present at the cross, preparing to lead Jesus through death and onward to eternal life.
You may have felt these same feelings and may feel in this moment that God has abandoned you. It is important to note that in the following and more familiar passage from the Twenty-third Psalm, the person who says, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want” also says, “thought I walk in the valley of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
God invites you to understand that your relationship with divine power and mercy is based on being involved with others and not on abandonment.
You would not be angry or upset if the person who had died did not represent a significant loss for you.
Your becoming angry with God may be an indication of how deeply one of God’s creations touched your life, how deep your feelings of loss are, and how you have begun to realize that all of us are connected with God and one another in a single circle of life.
While many people were told and taught that anger is a negative emotion which should not be expressed, it is important that you begin to reckon with all the parts of your personality that make you the unique individual you are. Admitting that you do feel anger or pain is the beginning of a more honest self-appraisal and genuine self-respect.
If you would like to reflect further on your feelings of anger, there are group and individual bereavement counseling opportunities available. Your local funeral director can be a valuable resource and of true assistance to you in this time of grief, as can a clergy person affiliated with your local church or synagogue.
In any event, anger with God is no reason to shut yourself off from the support of family, friends, neighbors or society, for you need more strength rather than less at life’s important moments.
In season and out of season, anger is one human emotion that reminds you of your need for others in this life, as you grow with others toward eternity.
This article is taken from the I Can Survive Grief Series, a collection of brochures focusing on aspects of grief. Copyright 1998 by Millennia Consulting, published by Abigal Press, Brooklyn, NY, 1.800.552.3060. Used by permission. All rights reserved.