Anger, Vulnerability, and Self-Care

Anger, Vulnerability, and Self-Care

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” Luke 21:34

A few months after Kim died, I had a doctor’s appointment for a regular check-up. Dr. Harrington knew Kim and me from our mutual missionary service in Africa. Dr. Harrington served in Eastern Africa, and we served in Southern Africa. He’s been my doctor for a long time. During the physical check-up, he spent some time asking how I was doing in my grief.

When I left his office and stopped by the receptionist’s desk, she said we needed a follow up in three months. Normally, I go every six months or year. Then, I noticed something. Dr. Harrington had listed a reason for the follow up. Grief. He knows something most of us don’t know unless we’ve been thrust into this journey. If you’re in grief, you’ve entered a vulnerable state. Self-care is paramount.

I was jogging one day and listening to Ecclesiastes again. I came across Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I’ve always loved this passage. However, that was when I was a married man. Two are better than one. But now, I’m alone. Dr. Harrington is right. I’m in a new and vulnerable state. I need to be cautious about so many things.

“You can’t see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears.” C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

But let me back up.

The week Kim died, I saw Dr. David Fort when he and Laurel brought a meal to my home. He is a friend and a colleague who is in a member care role for our organization. I told him that I needed time with him when the dust settled. After all, I had no idea what was ahead of me. To be honest, I felt a foreboding, a fear, concerning my future. I knew enough, even in the shock and numbness, to know that my life was drastically altered. I had a long journey before me. Besides that, I had often encouraged new missionaries not to think too highly of themselves and, instead, to reach out to member care or their sending church to help them through the inevitable struggles that come with missionary life—and life in general.

Three weeks after Kim died, David Fort and I sat in a coffee shop to talk. I learned a lot. But I had one major concern. I feared anger. I had always heard that anger was a part of the grief process. For some reason, I feared the prospect of experiencing unrestrained anger. I pressed him for guidance and insight. It was very helpful, but David avoided discussing anger the first couple times I brought it up. Finally, after I pressed a third time, he spoke a sentence that I found comforting and liberating.

“D. Ray, anger is not inevitable.”

Clearly, anger is not a wrong response. It’s a normal, oft-experienced part of grief. But in response to my concerns, David explained that if I faced my grief, mourned appropriately, and took care of myself, I did not have to experience out-of-control anger. If I kept my loss in a biblical perspective by not sugarcoating the loss but by keeping it in the context of truth, I did not have to be overcome by anger.

About two and a half hours later, I realized how blessed I am to have the support system I have to help me face my loss. In community. I’m learning self-care must be sought out; but care must also be received. Vulnerabilities must be met with care.

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” Hebrews 3:12


  1. Anonymous

    Thank you for your writing!

    I know you are helping many to understand the journey of grief.

    It is a hard process, but God never leaves us or forsakes us.

  2. Anonymous

    It is a journey. One thing I learned from a Grief Support Group is the only way to know the way in this journey is to ask someone who is coming back. Someone who has been there. What helped them may help you as well. People mean well but they can say cruel and heartless things unless they have been there.

    • D. Ray

      Fellow journeyers have been very helpful. I’ve read several excellent books and most are by people who have traveled ahead of me. They were helpful. This is one reason I agreed to begin sharing my entries. I want to comfort with the comfort with which I have been comforted.

      Everyone will have to wait quite a while for this one, but I’ve written an entry titled “How Not to be Like Job’s Friends.” So many either don’t say anything or don’t know what to say. It is just a difficult topic to address. But, you’re right, people mean well; I always seek to interpret any comment from that perspective.

  3. Anonymous

    Yes, anger is not inevitable. I lost my wife of 48 years 6 months ago after we fought a debilitating brain disease for over 4 years. There is no anger, plenty of grief and loneliness, but I knew this did not catch God by surprise. She went on to be with her Lord peacefully, gracefully and is in a much better place. God has given me such grace, peace, and faith. I still believe. Do I miss her? Incredibly, the ache of separation is overwhelming at times. But, I still believe.

    Mike Murphy

    • D. Ray

      I read a great quote this morning, Mike. Check this out:

      “Loss will always leave us with lingering reminders of what was and what will never be, but it doesn’t have to leave us without hope. Hope is the mingling of joy and sorrow, because hope is Jesus. God and man. Perfection and pain.” Katherine and Jay Wolf, Suffer Strong

      May you continue to mourn with hope. Thank you for adding your testimony of hope!

  4. Annette

    I find hope in the covenant relationship God designed for those of us who have found our soulmate and then had to say our goodbyes. We are the living witness now of the human relationship of man and woman to be husband and wife and when that design is redesigned we are the witness of the love of Christ and His Church, Christ and his bride, Christ reaching out to each of us for relationship. I hold this hope and daily press closer and closer to my Lord. I pray for you continually. You are a blessing in this journey.

    • D. Ray

      True, Annette. So true.

  5. Anonymous

    I agree that anger is not inevitable. Anger is often a secondary emotion, with deep roots in hurt, loss, disappointment, worry, disillusionment, vulnerability, fear.. I would suggest that if you are fearing anger then there is something to take note of there? Where we fear to tread is often where there is some unfinished business. But take heart.. God can handle even unrestrained anger, and you won’t be alone in the journey, as you have already found.

    • D. Ray

      Delving deep into this journey with you. In a couple of weeks, I address anger again. I press into some very good reasons for anger. So, hang on…

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