Grief And Anger: The Second Stage Of Grief
Sometimes, anger just feels good. Sadness feels out of control; anger feels like we’re in control. Lashing out, sitting with seething emotion, and not caring about the repercussions feels empowering and righteous. I sometimes wonder if that’s the reason so many people let their tempers flare. When we observe the suffering in the world, a little anger seems justified and necessary to offset the emotions of fear and helplessness.
It’s no surprise then that anger is a standard emotion we experience in grief. Death doesn’t discriminate. It takes the good souls and the bad; the young and the old; the rich and the poor; and the altruistic and the stingy. Rationally, there is no rhyme or reason for whom goes when. It can be difficult to maintain faith in the midst of a crisis.
When we’re grieving, anger can be directed at a myriad of individuals. We may blame the doctors who failed to save our loved one or be angry at our loved one for abandoning us. Maybe we’re angry at God or at those whose lives were not affected. We could even take our anger out on an innocent individual who happens to cross our path at the wrong time. It is after we express our anger that guilt and shame set in, especially when those closest to us fall victim to our wrath. They love us unconditionally, so it feels safe to act out our anger with those we love even though they don’t deserve it.
3 Ways To Work With Your Anger After A Loss
If you find yourself in this stage of grief, remember the following:
Losing someone is not a free pass for poor behavior. Once you’ve lashed out, acknowledge it. It’s important that we own our poor behavior. People will likely be forgiving when you explain to them what triggered your anger. You may not even know why you took your anger out on another, and that’s okay as long as you communicate it. Tell them, “I’m so sorry. I’ve been really angry lately. I know it has to do with the death of __________, and I’m working through it. Please forgive me.”
2. Forgive Yourself
It’s normal to “not be normal”. You’ve lost someone important, and your life has been forever changed. It takes time to adjust to a new way of being in the world. Forgive yourself for your transgressions. It is the most compassionate act you can do for yourself.
Suggested Read: Living After Loss – The New Normal
3. Express Anger Constructively
State that you’re angry to those whom you’re closest to. Transform your anger through a physical act: punch a boxing bag, beat a pillow, scream, chop wood, lift weights, play a sport, run or dance. Write the reasons why you are angry in a journal. Use a guided meditation specifically for releasing anger or practice deep breathing exercises. Anger is simply energy that needs to be released.
“Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler