Archives For anger

The Rules of Grief

Jeff Olson —  October 28, 2013 — Leave a comment

Winding Road, by Ruben I, Creative Commons/flickrOver the past couple of years, as I’ve struggled to figure out what a world without a mom and a dad looks like, I’ve learned and relearned a few things about grieving that a griever and someone who is trying to care for someone in their grief may find helpful.

I’ve learned that the first rule of grieving is that there are no rules. Grieving is neither neat nor orderly. There is no clearly defined path or timetable to follow. Different aspects of grief (the painful separation, disbelief, anger, guilt, hopelessness, etc.) fade in and out of our hearts with no discernible pattern. And there is no way of knowing how many times we will experience any particular aspect or so-called “stage” of grief.

I’m learning that just because we feel or wrestle with something once doesn’t mean we will never do so again. Most people experience several recurring feelings and questions as they grieve, sometimes as if it were for the first time.

Since watching both of my parents draw their last breaths, I’ve been reminded again that it’s okay to grieve. As King Solomon observed, there is a time for everything, including a time to weep” and “a time to mourn” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

No matter what aspect of grief wells up inside of us, I’m learning that it is important to give ourselves permission to feel and express it. It’s important to let the feelings and thoughts come—raw and unfiltered—and to put words to them. William Shakespeare rightly noted, “Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak . . . bids it [the heart] break.”

As crazy as it makes me feel sometimes, I’m learning that I need to mourn. According to Jesus, comfort awaits the griever (Matthew 5:4). I’m learning that leaning into the pain of loss opens me up to lean on God and others for comfort.

Lastly, I’m learning that Paul was right when he wrote that Christians grieve with hope. It is the hope of seeing our loved ones again when Jesus returns that helps to make unbearable loss more bearable (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

To learn more about helping folks in the throes of grief, tune into our upcoming Webinar, Shepherding Others Through Loss, on November 6, 2013, at 2 p.m. EST.



Ever get angry? I know I sure do. If there is one emotion I’m personally acquainted with—it’s getting hacked off.

Anger can be a legitimate and healthy emotion. The apostle Paul speaks of a righteous anger: “Be angry, and yet do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26 NASB).

For some of us, however, anger is the only emotion we let ourselves deeply feel and express.

Why is that?

For many people, it stems from past experiences where emotions like sadness and fear were downplayed or ignored or even outright discouraged. As a result, many of us learn to push such feelings down and use anger as a “go-to” emotion. Anger seems safer to feel because it’s far less vulnerable. When were angry, we won’t need others. And when we don’t need others, they can’t let us down.

It may provide a measure of short-term safety, but using anger as a “go-to” emotion and banning more vulnerable feelings will inevitably ruin relationships and block us from finding the comfort of God and others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Is anger your “go-to” emotion? Take a risk and let yourself feel those things that hurt or scare you. And then begin sharing those feelings with God and a friend or two. Involving others and letting them see more of you than just your anger can help you find comfort and in turn, learn how to comfort others.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” –Jesus (Matthew 5:4)


When Warriors Weep

Tim Jackson —  June 8, 2010 — 6 Comments

Strength doesn’t mean you don’t hurt. Training doesn’t mean that you won’t weep. Even for a Navy SEAL.

When I think of the toughest of the toughest, I think of a Navy SEAL. Only the strongest men survive the grueling training that hones them into the best the Navy has to offer. The attrition rate in the SEAL program is 70-80%. Nothing phases these guys. They can dish it out, they can take it, and they’re fine.


But in a TIME magazine article in November 30, 2009, Mark Waddell, a decorated Navy SEAL commander, chronicles the other side of the battlefront . . .  his internal battle back at home with PTSD. In spite of the training that as Waddell put it, “inoculates you against trauma,” it doesn’t eliminate the stress that gets packed away. He goes on to say in the article, “The first time you see someone dead, it’s a shock. By the 10th time, you’re walking over dead bodies and making sick jokes about what they had for breakfast. But all that stress accumulates.” And it comes home with even the best of professional soldiers.

What Waddell’s family began to notice was his explosive reactions to normal household stressors, increasing irritability with kids, and sometimes sleeping with a gun under his pillow. Changing the sheets on the bed became routine for his wife, Marshele, because of his night sweats and violent dreams. After one incident when Mark awoke from a nightmare with his hands wrapped around her neck and her face turning blue, Marshele developed an emergency escape plan for her and her children because of their fear of Mark’s escalating violence. It was 6 months after he had the daunting task of sorting through the remains of 8 of his comrades–men whom he’d personally trained, led, and fought beside–after the worst disaster in SEAL history, the downing of a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan that took their lives and 8 Army aviators on a rescue mission, that Mark finally admitted to himself and Marshele that he needed help.

The request for help when a man is down is not an act of cowardice. Rather, it’s an act of courage. Steeling yourself against the trauma of war is necessary when the bullets are whizzing by your head. But after the long journey home, it’s time to unpack the residue of war–the pain, guilt, grief, and anguish.

While talking about it may be discouraged in the military, talking about it, unburdening your heart is necessary for healing of wounds to occur. Just like a deep physical wound needs to drain–and that’s yucky–talking about the invisible pain that you carry is like draining your wounded heart so that deep healing can take place.

In Matthew 9:12, Jesus reminded his followers that “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Proverbs 13:12 reminds us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” And for warriors coming home from the battlefront with the images of war embedded in their hearts like emotional shrapnel, they need a safe place to begin to heal from these wounds of heart, mind, and soul.

Marshele Waddell has some vital words of experience to share with wounded warriors and their families: “you need an environment where the warrior can be vulnerable.” Check out Mark and Marshele Waddell’s website, Hope For The Home Front, for more of their story of living with and working through PTSD.

The War Within: Finding Hope for PTSD is a documentary DVD that we have produced to assist you in beginning your journey through the war with PTSD. Watch it free on line at the Day of Discovery website or order your own DVD. Check out our discussions with two vets who share how PTSD has become The Mark of War that they bear and how the resources of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ has given them hope in working through and experiencing healing from their internal wounds of war.

In 1967-68, Phil Downer was a 19-year-old Marine lugging a M-60 machine gun through the jungles and rice patties of South Vietnam with the Second Battalion, Fifth Marines. Phil’s outfit saw some of the heaviest fighting in the Fall of 67 in Operations Swift and Essex. In one of these battles, his unit was ambushed by the enemy and within 90 seconds lost 20% of his men either dead or wounded. After 13-months in-country, Phil left the war front in Nam and came home to peace . . . or so he thought. What he didn’t expect was that he carried the war back with him . . . inside.

When I asked Phil to describe his battles with PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, this is what he shared:

“Well, one minute you’re with a buddy you’ve fought with, you’ve seen the pictures of his family, you’ve shared your C-rations, you’ve saved each other’s lives, and in a second, he’s a bloody mess and you’re writing his mom about how he died. You don’t know what to say. The screams of the moment he was hit–you live with. They wake you up at night. You have no place to put the guilt. Why not me? You have no place to put the pain, the anger, the rage, and then you come home–to people who are at least indifferent if not angry with what you’ve done and the whole thing seems to be for nothing. And when that happens to you, it’s a pool of pain that radiates in every relationship and aspect of your life.”

And what Phil experienced has been the story of so many of our service men and women who come home from war. Whether it’s Vietnam, Gulf War 1 or Iraq and Afghanistan, the struggle is still the same. There is a war within that comes home and there’s no place to put the pain, the loss, the guilt, the fear, the rage, and the isolation.

But Phil’s journey home from war didn’t stop with the struggle. He broke into a smile as he also spoke about the healing he has and continues to experience from his internal war wounds:

“I’ve experienced a lot of healing from that war. A lot of wonderful things have happened in my life that have been restored, but I don’t think I’ll ever fully be over that war or forget the trauma of what I went through and had to deal with on a daily basis.  People ask me sometimes, ‘When were you in Vietnam?’ And, sometimes, my answer is quietly, ‘last night in my dreams.'”

Maybe you’re like Phil, and your war has come home with you in too many ways that you never expected. Maybe you’re overwhelmed and not sure what to do with it all. Maybe you don’t see it, but others close to you do. They’re telling you that you’re different. And somehow you know they’re right. You’ve been changed by what you experienced in war.

You can’t go back. You can’t undo what’s been done. But you can grow through this. Yes, in spite of the pain, you can grow through this. Just getting through it–surviving the firefight like you did over there–isn’t enough. The pain is too painful and too precious to waste. So, use it. With the help of God and those who love you, you can learn to grieve, grow, and live again even through this pain. You were taught how to survive in a war zone. Now you need to learn how to thrive back at home. But remember: it’s a process that takes time and effort. Get help.

For more help with PTSD, check out The War Within, Hope for the Home Front, Point Man Ministries, and round table discussions and insights on PTSD on

And for all you Vet’s who have served, let me say personally and on behalf of RBC Ministries and, Thank You For Your Service. We are grateful for you and your sacrifice.

When war comes home

Tim Jackson —  May 4, 2010 — 6 Comments

I’ve just spent the last several days with the HelpForMyLife editing team working through the videos we shot two weeks ago dealing with the issue of PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Wow! Talk about an intense topic.

This production has been especially tough, and yet so good. I’ve had the honor of working with two veterans and their wives who graciously invited us into their lives and shared their stories of struggle with PTSD and how it has impacted their lives.

Phil and Susy Downer hail from Chattanooga, TN. Phil is a Vietnam Vet who served a 13-month tour in Nam as a machine gunner with the Second Battalion, Fifth Marines. Phil’s unit was involved in some of the heaviest combat of the war. Some of the most horrific events of the war for him involved two major search and destroy missions, one in which his unit was ambushed by the enemy and in 90 seconds, 20% of the men in his unit were either dead or wounded.

Phil came home to a country that was less than appreciative of his and his unit’s efforts to serve faithfully. And the wounds they’d suffered and the sacrifices that they’d made, well, let’s just say that they were virtually ignored and discounted, leaving them in what Phil describes as “a pool of pain.” He met and married Susy and they began their lives together. But they soon discovered that the war didn’t stay 9,000 miles away in Southeast Asia. Unknowingly, Phil had brought the anger, fear, distrust, hyper-vigilance, guilt, shame, nightmares, flashbacks, and memories back home with him . And no matter how hard he tried to drowned out the screams, the smells, and the memories of war by all of his successes and achievements,  none of it was enough to heal the war within his soul. And it just about destroyed his marriage with Susy.

Lt. Col. Dan Nigolian  and his wife Kathy flew in from Colorado Springs, where they currently reside since Dan retired 9 months ago from a 26-year career in the Air Force as a chaplain. Dan was the senior chaplain on 5 combat deployments throughout his career. Three were special ops deployments, one was in Iraq, and his last was in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was the senior ranking chaplain of all NATO forces.

It wasn’t until he was going through his requisite retirement interviews that it was recommended to Dan that he be evaluated for PTSD. And although he initially shrugged it off saying, “No, I’m fine,” he consented to the tests at the request of Kathy who knew something was up. Given his 5 combat deployments, during which he was shot down in an airplane and later blown up in a convoy outside of Kabul, it was no mistake that war had taken its toll on Dan. He was diagnosed with moderate to severe PTSD, moderate traumatic brain injury, and severe depression. The experiences of war had etched permanent marks on his heart, soul, body, and mind that he and Kathy are currently in the process of working through.

These are the people that I’ve had the privilege of work with on this series. They poured out their hearts because they have and are experiencing healing from the war within that came home with them. While it’s never gone, it can be redeemed. What I learned from them is that although war trauma (or any trauma for that matter) inflicts invisible wounds on the human soul that are impossible to erase, there is a Wounded Healer who sacrificed Himself so that “by His wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

These two couples echo a message of hope for the 1.8 million men and women in uniform who are coming home from war. War will change you. You can’t experience the horrors of war and not have it impact you. You need a safe place to talk about your experiences, what you felt then when you were deployed, and what you are wrestling with since you’ve come home. And, as Dan would say, “you need buddy care when you’re over there, and you need buddy care when you come home.”

So, if you or a loved one you know is struggling with symptoms of PTSD, check out our website later in May 2010 (within the next 2 weeks) for the release of the new series on PTSD. Our sister ministry, Day of Discovery, has also produced a 4-part documentary that will begin airing  on the Ion cable network starting May 23, 2010. Tune in as Phil Downer and Dr. Mike Wilkins return to Vietnam for the first time since the war and tell their stories of horror, hope, and healing through PTSD.

Look under the hood

Jeff Olson —  July 6, 2009 — 1 Comment

under the hoodSome of my most profound insights have come while driving a car. Of course, I stay alert to what is going on around me, but I’ve noticed how God has this pattern of using certain incidents on the road to draw my attention to things that need to be addressed in me.

For instance, the other day I came across some construction on a two lane road where the traffic was shut down to one lane. The cars traveling in my direction were steadily passing through—until I came along. Wouldn’t you know it, as I approached, Mr. Construction worker turned the sign from “Slow” to “Stop.”



I know. The man was just doing his job, but I was ticked. It didn’t help that he seemed to enjoy making me wait.

As I sat there fuming,  it dawned on me that something wasn’t right inside of me. My strong emotional reaction was out of proportion. It was signal to take a look under the “hood” to see what was going on.

Strong emotions like anger or fear can be like warning lights on the dashboard of a car—telling us that something important needs immediate attention. Whether it’s something selfish God wants to disrupt, an old lie that needs to be challenged, or a deep hurt He wants to heal, an honest, inward look can reveal what we ultimately need to take to our Father in heaven. —Jeff Olson