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Center for Action and Contemplation
When Anger Meets Love
When Anger Meets Love

Anger and Grief

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Mirabai Starr writes of powerful emotions, including anger, that are part of losing someone we love:

If grief is a natural response to loss … then anger, as a common attribute of grief, is also natural. The power of our anger often correlates with the depth of our love. Anger takes many forms on the grief journey. Sometimes it manifests as a low-level irritability and other times as roaring fire, often unleashing itself on inappropriate targets. Sometimes it is directed at an individual we deem responsible for our loss….

Sometimes the anger is directed at God: “What kind of God could allow such suffering?” or “I was taught to believe God loved me. Apparently, that was wrong.”… While it is tempting to reduce this experience to a crisis of faith, such an easy explanation might obscure the rich spiritual transformation that is unfolding, as John of the Cross (1542–1591) might say, in the darkness of our own souls. Everything we thought we knew feels like it is unraveling and we have nowhere to turn but into the center of radical unknowing. Grief shatters our foundation and triggers a wholesale reorientation of meaning. Before we rush off to reconfigure the shards, we may choose to sit in the wreckage and allow ourselves to simply be broken.

From that place of devastation, we come face-to-face with our own groundlessness. We also get to see the extreme poverty of our previous conception of God. The box in which we had always confined the sacred has been demolished by the violence of our loss. The God we fabricated (with the help of society, our family, the church) has fled. No wonder we feel abandoned. No wonder we are angry. But that god was not the God. Our souls know that now…. Grief is an opportunity to reclaim an authentic connection with Mystery. [1]

Anglican theologian Maggie Ross writes of tears of anger as an opportunity to “cleanse” our anger and pain:

Most of the time our anger is due to unwillingness to face the hurt we feel and the real reasons behind it. To learn to weep in order to be free of anger and know “rest” does not obviate self-respect and is not related to putting oneself down.

On the contrary, if we are struggling to seek God single-heartedly, to learn to weep the anger out of ourselves is a matter of self-respect.

The idea of tears washing anger from us is alien to the mores of power-oriented Western society. We are conditioned to justify our anger, to find the right place to put blame, and to always feel good about ourselves. Most of us associate anger and tears with tears that spring from anger, not tears that cleanse us from anger. But … tears of anger are themselves … a sign of choice, of potential change. [2]


[1] Mirabai Starr, “The Second Sacred Gate: Grief, Anger, and Transformation,” Oneing  6, no. 1, Anger (Spring 2018): 79–80. Available in print and PDF download.

[2] Maggie Ross, The Fountain and the Furnace: The Way of Tears and Fire (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1987), 133.

Image credit: Benjamin Yazza, Untitled (detail), New Mexico, 2023, photograph, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.

Anger is a spark that motivates us forward. Love is a pathway that funnels our motivation in an impactful direction.

Story from Our Community:  

Recently at a retreat, I experienced the gift of truly seeing my “Wounded Self”…. Instead of reacting as I usually do—anger and disappointment—I felt the utmost compassion for him. He has been struggling through life the best he knows how. So many of his actions come from the wounding of childhood which he has been attempting to heal his whole life. Only now am I able to speak now from the “Unwounded Me”; the one who has never been—and never can be—wounded. In other words, my True Self, my Soul, that which comes into the world pure and remains so. This realization has changed everything for me. —Ed E.

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