Understanding the Anger Stage of Grief
Many believe that you should be able to get through your grief in weeks or months which is not accurate. As you move from denial to anger your begin to be aware of fact and emotions due to your loss. So when people ask “How long does grief last” the answer is “As long as it takes.” Grief will end, and your pain will subside in time, and eventually, you will cherish the memories and find peace and move forward in your new normal.
Anger is perhaps one of the stages of grief that people least expect and yet it is common and often occurs after the denial stage During denial, you are on auto-pilot and feel deep sadness, but surprisingly most people do not expect to have feelings of anger.
As you enter the anger stage, the phrase ‘Why” will bring many emotions to the surface, your loved one is gone leaving you to cope, resulting in moving from denial to sadness to anger. You are now starting to recognize the fact that your life is forever changed, which often shifts your mind to the “why me” or “life is not fair.” This is when you may begin to get angry at others or circumstances, or you may direct your anger to close friends and family. If you are active in faith, you might start to question God. “Where is God and why did He allow this to happen?
Anger is a necessary stage of grief; even though you might seem like you are in an endless cycle of anger, it will not last. Anger likes to hide, so at times we may not be aware of it, but anger buried away won’t remain that way forever, and when it surfaces it can catch you by surprise, recognizing and dealing with it is part of the healing process.
Allow yourself to feel angry, it can be human nature to suppress anger and put on a strong front, but when you do not allow yourself to feel the emotions, you could lash out in unhealthy and counterproductive ways. Although these are all common reactions to anger, they are likely to make the anger phase of grief more challenging. Feelings need to be acknowledged, expressed as it helps you begin to move forward. Don’t be afraid of feeling anger, it is normal and natural, but try and find a healthy outlet for those emotions.
Recognizing who or what you’re angry will help you deal in a productive and healing manner. Some common area’s where anger surfaces include:
- Death itself or the situation (illness, accident) that took the one we love
- Those we might feel are responsible for the death ( a doctor or caregiver)
- Family members and friends especially if we believe they let us or our loved one down
- Situations that prevented us from being with our loved ones before they died (work commitments, airline delays)
- People who seem not to suffer
- At life as it does not seem fair and others, life goes on while your life is shattered
- Our loved one who left us (why did you leave me)
- Ourselves for not having control to prevent the death (guilt for not being able to say goodbye, or having an argument)
- God for allowing it to happen (Why does God allow suffering)
Anger is a challenging emotion to deal with; it is vital to recognize, accept and express your feelings as a normal reaction to your pain. Let your feelings come naturally. If you don’t feel angry yet, you might be in another stage of the grieving process, such as denial. The more you allow yourself to feel anger (when you do feel angry), the more it will start to lord creep up on you.
Rember, there is no timeline when it comes to the anger stage of grief or any phase of grief for that matter. Some may never experience anger, or if you do, you may find yourself feeling anger also after you think you have processed through it. Commonly, you may go back and forth between the various five Stages of grief.
Several things you can do while in the anger phase:
- Remember, you are not yourself, and it is okay, you are on a journey to find a new “normal.”
- Recognize that you are angry. Name your anger, we all get anty at some point during the grieving process and recognizing the root cause dealing with it constructively is part of learning to let go of it.
- Accept that you are angry. Remember, anger is a normal reaction to loss, and it is okay to have these feelings as long as they do become destructive.
- Express your anger if you do not express and allow yourself to feel anger can build up inside of you until it explodes. Find ways to let your anger out without hurting or injuring yourself or others and talking to someone who can listen and handle it about how you feel.
- Let it go. Anger can erupt when others say how you should feel or do to “get over your loss.” Though well-intentioned it is hurtful. Learn to accept that it is your journey and no one else’s, ignore those comments and give yourself the grace to move at your own pace.
- Learn to forgive. Forgive the person or thing that is causing you to feel angry. This is hard to do, but it is very freeing. This can be a simple as writing a letter (whether you mail it or not), journaling or praying.
- Cry or yell. Crying is healthy, and though excruciating it heals your body by releasing stress and anger.
- Do an activity you like helps release feelings of stress and anger while increasing endorphins which are your bodies feel-good chemicals.
- Self-care. I will always point out taking good care of yourself (eating healthy, getting sleep, drinking water) keeps your mind and body in balance. If we do not take steps to care for ourselves, our immune system can weaken causing more stress on our bodies.
What should you do if you are stuck in the anger stage of grief?
Some people can get stuck in the anger stage of grief, and you have to be willing to yourself to feel anger during grieving to move forward and heal. In some cases a person may not be able to get past the sadness and anger, when this happens it is an excellent time to seek professional help either through a grief coach or counselor. Seeking help for those overwhelmed by their loss can help move forward in the healing process with guidance as you. A professional will talk and listen and help you identify the feelings and support in the healing process. They can provide tools, techniques and coping skills that work for you and help you find peace and joy again in life. You may be stuck in anger if you notice the following:
- Extreme irritability.
- Obsessing about what happened and what could have been done to prevent it.
- Anxiety and fear.
- Self-medicating destructively.
- Feelings of deep sadness or depressing thoughts.
If you think you’re in danger of hurting yourself, seek help or call 911.
My prayer for you is that you allow yourself emotions that bring healing.
Finding peace and moving forward.