The Anger of Grief
Anger is a common emotional reaction to our physical separation from a loved one. For many, anger is a very real part of the experience of grief when someone we love dies.
- Anger is a normal response to the seeming injustice of death.
- When we grieve, we’re not prepared for how it feels to be angry.
- We ask ourselves, “Where did that come from?”
- Anger often surprises us with its power and effect.
- When anger shows up, it easily controls our every thought.
- When we allow anger to take root and grow in our heart, it can take on a life of its own.
- Anger easily consumes the vital energy we need to do the real work of grief.
- Anger lasts until we have some answers for the “why” of death.
- When there seems to be no possibility for a satisfactory answer to our questions, anger can become larger than life.
- Anger lasts until we at last concede that we may never find the answers we need to move forward in our grief.
- Anger lasts until it has run its course.
Many who grieve have experienced medical situations or tragic events that have led to the death of a loved one. Perhaps you have interacted with professionals who seemed lacking in human caring or compassion. Every encounter with someone who is insensitive to our pain and frustration fuels our anger.
- We want to understand what happened. When we cannot get honest, factual information, our natural response is anger directed at those we feel are responsible for the death of our loved one.
- We want to hold someone accountable for circumstances we did not create and cannot control.
- Yet more often than not, there is no satisfactory resolution to this particular kind of anger.
- When we grieve, it feels counterintuitive simply to accept that we will never really understand what happened.
- A question to consider is, “How would my loved one want me to direct and invest my emotional energy?”
- When we have done all that we can, when we have researched and reached out to those who do understand and still do not receive satisfying answers to our
questions, sometimes we must simply let go of this particular kind of anger.
- In the moment this may feel like defeat. Yet the truth is that perhaps more than anger, we feel frustrated when we are not able to “have it out” or deflect our anger onto those we would like to hold responsible or accountable for the death of one we love.
Consider these ways to overcome the anger of grief:
- Remember that anger is a normal by-product grief.
- Sometimes anger is only a momentary pout, or a passing feeling of abandonment.
- For most, anger is usually a short-term reaction to the death of one we love.
- We take back our power over what has happened when we understand why we are angry and find a way to let it go.
How do we manage our anger?
We name our anger.
-“I’m so angry at…” or “I’m so mad about…”
We confront our anger.
- Are we really angry, or is what we’re feeling more about overwhelming disappointment?
- Do we pursue a face-to-face conversation with a doctor or caregiver?
- Do we confront a child, a parent, or perhaps even a stepparent about our anger?
- Do we take responsibility for our anger and realize that, at the end of the day, the person we may be most angry with is ourself?
- Are we mad at God?
We give up on our anger.
- We forgive others their failure to us.
- We forgive ourselves our own failure, whether real or imagined.
- We release our anger.
- We recognize that anger is an unproductive emotion.
- We make a conscious decision to release it and move on to other emotions of grief that are more productive than anger and need more of our attention.
Consider these questions about whatever anger you may be feeling as part of your grief.
- What are some personal issues of grief that make you feel angry?
- Do you know why you are angry?
- What purpose does your anger serve?
- How is your anger affecting yourself and others?
- What are you doing to identify and resolve your anger?
The psalmists speak openly and unapologetically about their anger, the Psalms acknowledge that anger is a very real emotion, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15). God understands our anger, God knows our heart. God is faithful to us when we grieve.
And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?
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