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Thu, March 21

Talk of the Town: Try to understand others' grief

Anger is a stage of grief. Anger is often the first sign of grief, in fact, right after the initial shock and disbelief when we lose someone most dear. The truth is, when we realize a loved one is gone permanently, anger is a basic human emotion that comes out. Every human being has expressed this raw emotion. When our hearts are broken and we are overwhelmed with sadness, we express our sadness as anger, often publicly.

Consider the life of a Hotshot family. Their situation was difficult before June 30. Through the power of love they stuck together and as a family endured the challenging demands of this job. Work conditions were such that the Hotshot was called off to duty at a moment's notice, engaging in a dangerous job while the wife was left with all of the family's responsibilities for extended periods of time, oftentimes filling the roles of both mom and dad, all the while knowing and accepting that their heroic sacrifice did not lead to riches.

These difficult daily realities must have become unbearable in the aftermath of June 30 on Yarnell Hill. Likely, the dam burst for these families at that point and the flood of grief, yes, even anger, broke through.

When grief is at work the mental, emotional, and physical safeguards we once relied on to hold us together shatter and leave us vulnerable to more powerful, basic impulses. The day-to-day activities of buying groceries, making meals, eating, cleaning the house, personal hygiene, balancing the checkbook, and time management are next to impossible tasks in the beginning without significant support.

Anger is ugly. Anger hurts the one experiencing the emotion and those witnessing its expression. But anger is a powerful piece in the puzzle and process of grieving. We must experience it.

Some have condemned a new widow's public expression of grief. Perhaps they have never known anguish and suffering like this woman is experiencing and are unequipped to empathize. Possibly, it may be an expression of their own grief over the loss of 19 of our finest citizens, an angry outburst in their own healing process.

In a person's most desperate moment of suffering, grace is needed most. This is an act of giving on the part of those around the grieving person. Having the right to be offended at the grieving person's behavior and words is, of course, a freedom of choice; however, it is a self-centered reaction in a moment in time when the grieving person's needs trump our own. For such a time as this, we desperately need to sacrifice our right to be offended in order to help the brokenhearted heal. This is a gift to our wounded and suffering. It is their turn to express their anger and to be respected and heard regardless of whether we agree with them or not.

As the stages of grief play out, anger gives way to acceptance and healing continues. And in later stages of healing, this same brokenhearted soul becomes the one tending to the wounds of others with the skill of a master counselor, having been allowed the space to heal.

Let us not judge the grieving person nor cut them down with our words and actions. Let us support them on every side, even if that means laying down our pride and letting the grieving person speak their heart in the moment, without judgment or retaliation on our part. As healing takes place, anger dissipates. If we stand with our suffering brothers and sisters in their darkest hour, we can truly celebrate with them in their finest moments as the grieving process transforms the suffering soul into the most brilliantly chiseled diamond ever beheld.

The capacity to care, to love, to understand without judging by appearances is best displayed in souls who have walked through death valley and have come out victorious. Healing starts with expressions of anger. And the healing of a community, from trauma survivors to everyday citizens to elected leaders, progresses through these same stages. Let us be gracious to one another as we all heal.

Anna Alporque, BS in Human Services/Psychology, has lived in Prescott for 2 years. She is a pre-nursing student at Yavapai College.

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