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
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