The default for many people in the throes of grief is anger. Anger at others and anger at oneself. Angry that one is left to go through belongings, make decisions, complete paperwork, face court cases, arrange communication with family and friends, left behind to cope.
The externalization of those emotions is rage, outbursts, physical and medical changes. The internalization of the emotions is depression. Same emotion, different direction. Both directions can be destructive.
Remaining angry does not promote healing and internalizing as depression can cause self loathing, guilt, and emotional paralysis. The primary reason, in my 25+years of counseling, for people stuck in grief is their belief that if they do not stay angry they feel they do not demonstrate alliance or loyalty to the loved one they have lost, especially in situations where someone else bears responsibility for the death. That can be a driver, a caregiver, a medical provider. They believe that they must remain angry or they will not be taken seriously in their quest for answers.
The truth is, anger does not honor our loved one, and it separates us from our support system. Anger creates a wall. It minimizes bi-directional cooperation. It reduces effective communication.
How do we manage it? Recognize it as frustration, exhaustion, broken-heartedness. Consider the goals you have that you feel you are reaching by being angry. Are you getting anywhere? You may not get the results you seek because frankly, anger projected outwardly limits connection. No one wants to embrace a porcupine or a grizzly bear.
So what is the answer? Begin to journal your feelings getting all of it anger and caustic frustration out on paper rather than out into the air. Recognize that you’re angry, call it what it is, but frame it into a usable emotion that gets positive response and positive results.
How do you do that? As you write out how you’re feeling, and include all the cuss words, enhancement descriptors, that you feel but then leave it alone for 24 to 48 hours before you go back and re-read it. Consider the person on the other side of your wrath in many situations has absolutely nothing to do with the reason that you’re angry. They are simply a messenger, a mediator, a lawyer, coworker, or friend. And even if they are the person responsible for what has happened and the loss that has been created, you will not get any further by being angry and unapproachable. You are not forgetting the impact of what they’ve done, you are not dishonoring your loved one and you are not negating the seriousness of what has happened. You are simply communicating in a nonthreatening manner in a calm tone which allows people to hear you.
Separating how you feel with what your goal is may be the most constructive action you can take. When people around you hear the tone of your voice and the volume of your voice is on loud, they never completely hear the words you are saying. In our position of grief we sometimes say that we don’t care what other people think, but that isn’t true. If we did not care we would not be pursuing answers, awareness and justice.
Work at mitigating your anger. Find time each day to stop, take 10 deep breaths and engage in a peace developing activity. Read a book, listen to music, meditate, do yoga, talk to someone, pray or whatever brings you balance. This activity in itself will help reduce blood pressure, headaches and other physical responses to your anger.
How do YOU relieve anger?
Sarah Byrd, PhD
The Radius Consulting Group, Inc.
“Finding Peace and Direction After Crisis”