This past weekend was our annual middle school girls retreat at Hayes Barton UMC. I wasn’t looking forward to it. It was a lot of work and it meant another weekend away from James. Going into the weekend I had clenched fists, both literally and figuratively. I drove to therapy on Thursday with anger in my heart and white knuckles around the steering wheel. I knew this was part of the grief process, I just didn’t know how it would manifest and how much I would need to embrace the intensity.
In therapy we talked about bouncing through the stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I think I’ve felt all of them. Some I’ve felt for longer than others, and I’ve often felt varying stages in the same day. Certain stages have come and gone, only to return a few days later. Because I’ve bounced around so much, I was surprised that my anger hit with such a vengeance. Many women feel anger towards God for allowing this to happen. Others feel anger at their own body for not being able to keep their child alive. My anger is different. I feel a fury towards other moms. I feel anger towards pregnant ladies and even grandparents. It isn’t fair and doesn’t make sense. My anger isn’t rational, but neither is grief. I continued to let myself embrace this anger as I loaded up 12 of the most incredible young women in the church van in attempts to enhance their spiritual lives on a retreat even though I knew it meant letting them see into my cloudy grieving heart.
What I didn’t know was that even though I wasn’t looking forward to the retreat, God knew I needed it. This retreat was a three day escape from anger. It was time I got to spend with young saints who showed me what it means to live like Christ. Popular author, Rachel Held Evans, taught me how to be brave and embrace the parts of the bible that make me squeamish. The theme of our retreat was Valor. In one of her books, Rachel does research and discovers that Proverbs 31 is a praise to women rather than a list of unrealistic expectations. She discovers that Eshet Chayil means “Woman of Valor.” It means strong, courageous, bold, and confident. I had no idea that Rachel would fall ill and pass, and I had no idea that my students would be the ones teaching me to be a woman of valor. The Lord knew that I needed this time away. The Lord knew that in the midst of my grieving I also needed to be called a woman of valor.
On Sunday as we packed up our stuff I was excited to get home and hug James, but I was dreading getting back to my daily life. As we drove home my fists began to clench slowly and the anger began to return. I’m learning that I needed that retreat from my anger. I needed a break. It doesn’t mean my anger is gone, it means it was gone for a few days. Unfortunately, I’m back to being tearful and angry. I’m glad I get to worship a God who can hold my anger.