Anger Stage of Grief - It's Normal - How to Move On

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.

Dark Angry Sky reflecting the anger stage of grief

Who are you angry with?

  • Anger is frequently directed at the medical profession.  Why couldn't they save my loved one?  This anger can often look for blame, even if there really wasn't anything that could be done.  Even doctors cannot control whether we live or die.   A lovely lady I knew sent for the doctor one Sunday when her husband complained of severe indigestion.  It was two hours before the doctor arrived.  It turned out to be a heart attack and sadly, her husband died.   All her pent up anger and hate were vented on the overworked UK health service and the doctor.  She couldn’t believe how angry and full of hate she had become.
  • People with faith are likely to become angry with their God. 
  • You might be angry with your family who are left behind.  You could even be angry with yourself, if you survived an accident when another didn't.
  • If your loved one was killed, you are bound to be angry with the thing or person who caused it. 
  • If it was a suicide, you may even be angry with the person for leaving you. 
  • You might be angry with yourself - blaming yourself for something you think you should have done.  

“Even though I know in my mind that you didn't reject me, I feel that you did on some mysterious primal level. I feel that you dumped me. Unreasonable as this is, the feelings are ever present.” Stephanie Ericsson - Author of Companion through the Darkness

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.  

Embrace your anger and grief in healthy ways

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.

How do you get past the anger stage of grief?

“Rage at the sun for shining. Rage at the dead for dying. Rage at the living for breathing. And this rage lifts us out of the inertia and brings back clarity......... It is a superb emotion.” Stephanie Ericsson - Author of Companion Through the Darkness.

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.

  • Yes, we did want more years together. 
  •  Yes, we are sad and mad that we didn’t get those years. 
  •  But there will be so many people who had less time.

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.

RElated Pages: 

Grief and Jealousy of Others' Happiness

Books on Grief

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and the 5 Stages of Grief

What are the Emotions of Grief? 

A very good article on loss and anger

> > Anger Stage of Grief

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