It is no accident that red is the color of both passion and anger. Anger is a normal part of grief—a
bridge of strength and energy across the abyss of loss. You are angry because someone you love has died.
is progress because it means you are feeling the raw emotions of grief you need in order to heal. Please note: Not all grievers
feel angry because each person’s grief is unique. Anger, while common, is not universal, so please don’t believe
that you are somehow grieving "incorrectly" if you are not angry!
At a time when you need people, you
may find that your anger isolates you because anger is so uncomfortable to be around. Your friends and loved ones may also
criticize you for being angry. That’s their problem. Anger becomes your problem when it causes you to say and do things
that you regret later and adds to your suffering.
Don’t suppress anger or let someone take it from you.
Instead, explore it because underneath the anger is the pain of loss and the deep love you have for the one who has
died. The more anger you allow 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.
The following ideas may help you explore and safely express this powerful emotion of grief:
a RED DIARY, your angry journal. Try to make an entry in it every day. If you don’t enjoy writing, you can use a tape
recorder for the same purpose. Play it back to yourself. Listen to your own angry voice. You will learn much about the intensity
of your love for the one who died and your deep grief.
Use the sentences that follow to get started but let your
own ideas flow. Soon you will be acquainted with your anger and what lies just beneath it.
The best part of my
anger is __________.
The worst part of my anger is __________.
I am angry because ____________.
My anger is __________.
I got angry today because __________.
Angry behavior is __________.
I fear __________.
I love __________.
The death of my loved one __________.
I am angry
I get angry when __________.
I first feel anger in the __________ region of my body.
My early warning signs of anger are __________.
(I know I am getting mad when __________.)
expresses itself in my body by __________.
I was taught that anger __________.
When I was a child,
anger was __________.
I usually __________ when I am angry.
When I am angry, the people (or pets)
around me __________.
Anger is good because __________.
Anger is not good because __________.
Constructive ways I have expressed anger in the past include __________.
Destructive ways I have expressed
anger in the past include ___________.
In the past, I have used the energy of anger to __________.
use the energy of anger now to _________.
I want to use the energy of anger to __________ in the future.
The next time I feel angry, I will ___________.
When I hear the term anger management, I ___________.
Professional counseling is __________.
I will know I am less angry when __________.
your entries on a regular basis such as once a week or once a month. Look for repeating themes or behaviors and anything else
notable to you. In what ways are you changing?
TopI like to write so keeping a journal is healing for me but it is a sedentary activity.
Anger won't disappear on its own. If left unattended, it will grow larger and larger until it erupts. The energy of anger
needs to be safely dissipated. In other words, anger needs exercise. If you have health concerns, please check with your doctor
before engaging in physical activity.
The next time you feel an angry surge coming on, try one of these
Destroy something that has no value. (You don’t want to regret your choice later.) Some
people like the sound of breaking glass and buy cheap dishes at garage sales for the sole purpose of breaking them. I like
to rip junk mail to shreds with my bare hands. Tearing paper has an agitated quality to it, sounds angry and takes effort.
I also enjoy breaking pencils.
Scream. I used to live by train tracks. Trains have loud whistles. Sometimes, when
the train went by, I screamed at the top of my lungs and no one could hear me. It was therapeutic. You can also scream into
Walk, jog, engage in sports, chop wood, knead dough, bash a pillow or a punching bag, clean house, scrub
the floors and walls, sort through your garage and attic junk or learn leather tooling.
Work in your garden if
you have one, especially weeding, digging and hoeing.
Paint or draw angry pictures. Get messy. Use lots of red.
Dance with your anger. Put on loud, angry music. Any music with a strong, unsettling beat will do. Dance by yourself
until you can dance no more. Really feel the music and express your anger.
If you're up to being around other
people, (and you may not be for a while), join a health club and use it on a regular basis. In some cities, the YMCA and YWCA
also offer fitness programs, aerobics classes and swimming. Y memberships are usually less expensive than health club dues.
Write angry letters that you don’t send anywhere. Read them out loud with as much emotion as you can muster
in front of a mirror or photo of your loved one. You might also want to read them at the graveside.
Pound out your anger on the computer keyboard by joining an online grief healing disscussion group. The supportive responses may surprise you.
Breathe. Anger can literally
take your breath away. Concentrate on slow deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose for three seconds. Breathe out through
your mouth for three seconds. As you do this, think I am calm, I am calm, I am calm.
Confide in a friend,
spiritual adviser or licensed therapist. Sometimes talking about your anger with someone you trust helps put it in
perspective and returns a feeling of control to you.
Create your own unique (and safe) expression of anger and
go for it.
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. Never forget that in grief you are angry because you deeply loved and now your loved one is
For more on this topic, including when to seek professional help for a better understanding of your anger,
please visit Anger: A Bridge Across the Abyss.
Resources for this page:
Fitzgerald, Helen. The Mourning
Handbook. New York: Fireside Books, 1994.
Kubler-Ross, Elizabeth and David Kessler. On Grief and Grieving.
New York: Scribner, 2005.
to next page: The Gift of Forgiveness
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How complicated and individual mending is,
the time required for healing
cannot be measured against any fixed calendar.
Mary Jane Moffat
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