Anger is perhaps one of the stages of grief that people least expect and yet it is extremely common.
But your loved one has left you. How could they? Leaving you to cope with everything?
Someone came up to me one day and said “I don’t know how you cope”. I was lost for words and felt the anger rising. I quietly told her that I didn’t have a choice. I just had to cope.
The lady who was angry with the doctor at least had a focus for her
anger and in some ways, at least it helped her to get rid of it and she
was soon able to focus on her family and job again. It helped her to
move forward on her pathway of grief. Though it is true that some
people get stuck in this anger and spend years protesting or holding a
grudge. If the anger is re-directed to campaigning for improvements and
making things better, this can give life a purpose again and give joy
when achievements are made.
Sadly, the lady who said she didn’t know how I coped lost her husband a few months later and realised that life just goes on and somehow we find coping strategies.
Think of a child having a tantrum. At that moment they are angry, they hate their sister or brother or parents and the screaming rage they feel is huge for them.
As we get older we learn to control our emotions, so then it becomes a shock when grief hits us and we realise that we are still capable of feeling these extreme emotions.
Don't be afraid of feeling anger, it is normal and natural, but try and find a healthy outlet for those emotions. Take it out on a punchbag, or a lump of bread dough rather than the family. Going into the middle of a field and having a good scream can be cathartic.
When I was matron of a nursing home, a company once sent me a Tantrum Mat. A simple thing with a pair of feet printed on it. The staff and I had a laugh about it. I left it in the staff room. They all said that after a frustrating day for any reason, jumping on it was a great way to let off steam and get rid of anger. It is just a feeling after all, and it is best to let it out and let it go.
It is natural to think about all the "What ifs?", "And why me?" But, these are negative, unproductive thoughts when we realise that our lifetimes are so variable.
Take the good years or months or even days you did have for the great blessing it was. You’re grieving so you must have loved. You’re grieving for a happy time you had with them.
You may even be grieving for a happy time you didn’t have with them. For the lost opportunity. You still loved the person even if the relationship wasn't perfect. You might be furious that you didn't get the chance to put things right.
Feelings need to be acknowledged, expressed, and then you can move on. If you are feeling really angry, think about writing down your thoughts. Or talk to someone you trust about your feelings. Maybe play some music really loudly, or paint a dark and gloomy picture. You will feel better afterwards and ready to move on. Another way to calm your thoughts and your mind is to take up meditation, which will help with your anxiety too. Read our page on Meditation for Grief.
Try to be positive. As a working Mum for over 50 years, I try to look upon this chapter of my life as 'me time'. It would have been wonderful to have spent the twilight of my life with my dear husband, but it wasn't to be.
For more ideas on getting past the anger stage of grief, read our guest writer Wendy's experiences.
Understanding Anger During Bereavement by Dr Bob Baugher
Learn how to cope with anger while you're grieving from grief expert Dr Baugher.
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