Anger surfaces once you are feeling safe enough to know you will probably survive whatever comes.
At first, the fact you lived through the loss is probably surprising to you. Then more feelings hit, and anger is usually
at the front of the line as feelings of sadness, panic, hurt and loneliness also appear. David Kessler
Anger is an energy. It cannot be destroyed or forgotten.
It has to be converted. Leo Madow
When we are grieving, anger is another indicator of how
much we loved the person who died. If you feel anger over your loved one’s death, you owe no one an apology for your
grief—or your anger. It is human to be angry and underneath your anger is your pain. Consider, too, that anger is not
a “requirement” of grief because not every griever will feel its force.
There are many reasons to be
angry when a loved one dies. You may be angry because: the medical professionals did not do their jobs correctly; friends
and relatives say unhelpful things; the person who died left you alone with a legal mess or in a bad situation or caused his
own death; someone is responsible for your loved one's death through reckless or violent behavior; God let you down and didn’t answer your prayers; you didn’t respond to a crisis the way you wanted; your finances
have drastically changed; you have to go back to work; you must now assume the burden of added household responsibilities;
you have lost control of your life; or you feel isolated from friends and family.
More reasons to be angry include:
the rest of the world acts like nothing has happened; people continue to laugh and tell jokes; bills still need to be paid;
night still follows day; the world hasn’t stopped because of your grief; or fill in your own reasons here. You may even
be angry that you are healthy and alive and can’t join your loved one just yet.
Anger is a normal part of
grief—a bridge of strength and energy (at a time when there is little of either) across the abyss of loss. Anger tells
us that we are alive and we loved someone very much. We are angry because now that person is dead. Anger is progress because
it means we are feeling the emotions of grief needed in order to heal. The more we honor our loss by allowing ourselves to
feel anger, the more healing we will do.
People will criticize our anger because it is uncomfortable to be around.
The problem is not anger. The problem arises when we misdirect anger—unfairly—at those around us or turn it towards
ourselves. Anger turned inward can create physical and emotional problems such as ulcer, high blood pressure, heart attack,
anxiety, depression and abuses of food, alcohol or drugs.
Lashing our unfairly at the people or pets around us,
or engaging in reckless behavior, creates all sorts of chaos in our lives. We are already grieving. Anger can cause us to
do or say things now that we will regret later, resulting in even more pain.
Unacknowledged anger grows larger
and larger until it erupts. Suppression (ignoring it) never works. Angry energy will not go away. It must be released. The
more you can understand your anger—how you react when you’re mad—the more you can make changes that allow
for your healing.
Anger is an important part of grief. It’s yours, you earned it and no one can (or should)
take it from you. Anger can also be a constructive force for good. Just ask the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
(MADD) But when anger becomes the defining characteristic of your grief, a stuck place that causes you and everyone around
you to suffer more, please seek professional help to gain a better understanding of it.
Never forget that you
are angry because you deeply loved and now the one you loved is gone. You may be shocked when the intensity of your anger
is in direct proportion to the intensity of your love for the one who has died. Explore your anger because the more you allow
the feelings to surface the more of yourself you will find. Mostly, it will be the pain of loss and your grief will change
form again, not in circles going nowhere round and round, but in upward spirals of healing.
Please visit The Red Diary for suggestions on exploring and safely expressing this powerful emotion of grief.
Resources and Further Reading:
Fitzgerald, Helen. The Mourning Handbook. New York: Fireside Books, 1994.
and David Kessler. On Grief and Grieving. New York: Scribner, 2005
Stearns, Ann. Ph.D. Living Through Personal Crisis, Idyll Arbor, second edition, 2010. Five Star reader reviews.
Dr. Stearns writes: All of us have the rights and responsibilities
to take our losses seriously. Grief and pain, when ignored, can do us in, harming us in a dozen ways. Unresolved pain keeps
us from being complete. Facing our losses is how we find our freedom again.
a passage about anger from a chapter titled 'Anger and Bitterness Can
be a Good Sign':
life puts us up against a wall, for whatever reason, great anger is usually generated within us…Many of us grew up
in an atmosphere where angry feelings were unacceptable to the adults who provided for us and taught us…when we’re
grown and a crisis comes, we desperately need to know how to investigate and understand feelings of anger…The rest of the chapter addresses how to do that.
can’t I find a page or link that used to be here?
Over the last ten years, The Grieving Heart® meandered
into many topics and lost its purpose. I have deleted 40 pages to bring it back to the original focus of grief and helping
Web addresses come and go and I cannot guarantee the accuracy, safety or longevity of third-party (external) sites.
Adding links by request, or finding and fixing broken links are massive time consumers, so I have deleted many outside sources
and will limit additions in the future. The external links that remain are checked on a regular basis and related to
grief, helping grievers and pet loss.
will continue to honor and remember veterans and fallen soldiers because it is the least I can do for those who have
given so much.
I hope that my renewed attention
to grief information will make The Grieving Heart® a better experience and comfort for you. Thank you for visiting. CJ
A Word About E-mail: One way to decrease SPAM e-mail caused by Internet bots is to deactivate the live address link. You can still contact
me by copying and pasting this address into your own e-mail program.
Note to Visitors:
I read and
respond to grief email at the end of each month when I update this site. If you need a more timely response, please visit
a well moderated grief healing discussion group. It is free to use and requires registration to participate. I am not part of this group, but certified
grief counselors are there to help, support and comfort grievers and those who love them. Because the
counselors lost funding for the site, they are grateful for voluntary donations.
Why no links to Facebook and other social media? Click here for the answer.
How complicated and individual mending is, the time required for healing
cannot be measured against any fixed calendar. Mary Jane Moffat
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