Exploring the feeling of anger following the loss of a loved one, what it looks like, and what can help.
Anger can come on like red hot fury following the death of a loved one. We may be angry with the circumstances that took our loved one. We may be angry at ourselves for something we did or did not do. We may even be angry with our loved one for leaving us. Anger does not have to be rational.
Often, after a loss we are looking for something or someone to blame for the unfairness of our loss. This is human nature and happens in the context of trying to make sense of what happened and the enormous pain we are dealing with. Pain can make us feel vulnerable and helpless. Conversely, anger is an ‘active’ emotion. It drives us to take action and may give us a sense of control back.
Anger can take multiple forms during grief, including:
- Irritability and short-temperedness
- Verbal outbursts at others ranging from mild snappiness to rage
- Punitive actions toward self, e.g. denying pleasure
- Rage episodes
- Impatience and restlessness
- Sense of unfairness
- Desire for revenge
While anger is a natural part of grieving, it can also protect us from experiencing the pain of the loss. It is important not to get stuck in anger more permanently.
Here are some ways to manage anger in a healthy way and move forward in the grieving process:
Understand your anger – Identify your anger, where you can feel it physically, and what is driving it. Do you feel resentful toward yourself, the deceased person, your loved ones, strangers, society, disease, fate, or a higher power? What is your anger urging you to do? What past experiences may be contributing to your anger?
Express your anger – Find healthy ways of engaging with and expressing your anger. This can be through conversations with people you trust, writing about it, or even art, for example poetry, painting, drawing, sculpting, or dance. Anger can also be expressed in guided meditation or visualisations. This is often most beneficial when done with the guidance of a mental health professional. Whichever way works, be mindful and intentional about expressing your anger.
Do something active with your anger – Anger is a feeling that urges us to action. What actions feel like an appropriate use of your anger? For example, people who have lost a loved one to an illness or accident channel their anger into activism, supporting research, fundraising, raising awareness, or creating a change in laws or regulations. Other actions can include creating something meaningful to help us process our anger and loss.
Share your anger – Speaking to others, especially those who share your grief, can help to work through some of your anger and feel heard or understood. Anger is part of grieving, so other bereaved individuals are likely to experience a stage of this. Finding some community with those left behind can be helpful to reduce the isolating nature of grief. It can also help to decrease any potential guilt or shame that arises from experiencing anger.
Article written by Dr Esslin Terrighena
Psychotherapy and grief counselling can be powerful and effective when dealing with anger. If you have experienced loss and would like some guidance through the grieving process, please book a consultation by calling (852) 2521 4668 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.