If you are going through the pain of losing someone close to you, it can feel like a part of you is missing and life will never be the same. At the same time, the grieving process can include other feelings that you did not expect, like anger, irritation, guilt, shame, and loss of passion for your own life. All of these unexpected and highly charged emotions can make your life feel more difficult and even overwhelming.
You may even experience an overarching sense that you are doing the grieving process all wrong. It is easy to think that you “should” be feeling a certain way and to let your inner critic shame you into thinking that what you are actually feeling is somehow wrong. However, anger and other difficult and unexpected emotions are just part of a normal grieving process.
The Grieving Process
Many authorities recognize the stages of grief as:
- Shock or Disbelief
- Depression or Sadness
- Hope for the Future
You may feel any or all emotions associated with these stages of grief on any ONE day. This is not a linear process that you can walk through while logically checking off each item.
Anger is Normal
Anger is one of many emotions that you may struggle with during the process of finding hope again. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Anger is a natural response to perceived threats…However, anger becomes a problem only when you don’t manage it in a healthy way.”
Stress Contributes to Anger
If anger is a normal and natural response when we are threatened, it makes sense that we would feel furious when a loved one passes away. So many of the emotions we feel while grieving the loss of a loved one are threatening to our well-being and peace of mind.
During the bereavement period there are many situations that can cause extra stress. That stress level can be a threat to your peace of mind and well-being. Anger is a normal reaction to feeling threatened by the level of stress you are under.
- Often we are stressed with extra responsibilities dealing with estate management, funeral planning, family members that are difficult, children we are worried about, and scheduling that is disrupted.
- If you are socially anxious or more introverted, you deal with the stress of more social situations, more people calling you or texting and messaging you for details and to check on you.
- You may have put responsibilities on the back burner while you dealt with a long term illness that took your loved one, and now you feel the weight of everything that you set aside. Feeling your work or daily responsibilities getting away from you can be a heavy burden of stress to carry.
- You may also be struggling with the stress of helping everyone else who is hurting or wondering why others seem to be handling grief in ways that are different from how you are feeling your own grief. These are threats to your peace of mind also.
Struggling with Our Actions
If we don’t take the time we need to find our peace of mind in the stress and struggle, feelings like anger or irritation can seem overwhelming. You can even find yourself acting out in ways that you never have before. Intense anger can cause you to take action without thinking if you are not careful. This is why it is so important to take the time you need to increase your peace of mind and keep your anger managed.
Find the Underlying Feeling
Whether it is exercise or journaling, you need to recognize the feelings underlying your anger. Anger always has underlying basic emotions such as fear. Here are some common fears that could be causing your anger:
- Fear that you don’t know how to grieve “correctly” or that the anger is swallowing you whole.
- Fear that your family has changed and you are no longer a “complete” family
- Fear that you are now alone and have been abandoned
- Fear that you did something to cause the death, an overwhelming sense of guilt
- Fear that others are judging you and finding you “less than” in this time
- Fear that you will be sad forever or will never stop crying
- Fear of never finding a new normal
- Fear that your loved ones can’t cope and you don’t know how to help
Anger is a Signal
When you feel the stress or fear or sadness building into irritation and anger, remind yourself that you are going through a hard time and you deserve a break now and then. The anger is a signal that you have reached a limit. There is only so much you can carry. You also need to take time to do whatever helps you to relax and breathe through the anger until it recedes.
If you are in the middle of something that must be done, take 5 minutes somewhere no one will miss you and do some calm breathing, meditate, or pray. These little moments are part of taking care of yourself during this time and are absolutely necessary to your continued health and well-being. Anger is just trying to tell you that it is time for a time out to find your equilibrium.
Taking care of yourself in this way also helps to care for your loved ones. When you are feeling calmer and more centered, you can better care for those you love. When you have a bit more time to spend relaxing, you may need to care for yourself by:
- Taking a nap
- Going for a walk with your favorite pet or human
- Calling a friend or counselor or writing in a journal
- Soaking in the tub or hitting the sauna
- Going out with friends who understand that your emotions are all over the map
- Going for a run or to the gym
- Listening to music
- Getting away from everyone affected by the loss to regain a sense of yourself and what you need
Whatever is causing your anger, know that it is a natural emotion during a season of grief. Finding ways to manage angry outbursts and deal with your anger productively will help keep you and your loved ones emotionally healthy through this time. If you find that the anger is always present or is affecting your ability to be kind to your loved ones, a grief counselor or counseling group can make all the difference in helping you cope as you heal.
At Renaissance, we believe that grieving is a natural part of every life. We all face losses and must struggle with the changes we face as we go through each stage of our lives. We want to be a resource for you and your family as you walk through this time and learn to heal from your loss.
If you need a counselor or group to connect with for healing and encouragement, give Transitions GriefCare a call. Transitions is a trusted community resource offering bereavement support to people coping with the death of a family member, colleague, or friend. Their professional staff provides short-term counseling, support groups, workshops, and other services designed to compassionately meet the needs of adults, children, and teens seeking to address the unique challenges of grief and create a path toward healing.