Anger. Part of the range of emotions we can experience during grief. Anger can range from “I’m feeling a bit pissy”, to a full on “I’m feeling tempted to clock you one with my handbag”.
The thing I want you to remember is that angry thoughts, feelings and emotions are completely normal after a bereavement. I sit firmly in the camp that there is no such thing as ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ emotions, they’re all just emotions that generally serve us in some way at the time we’re experiencing them.
A word of caution.
I say it all the time. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Your grief is unique to you and so is your anger. For example, you might feel angry about the circumstances surrounding your loss, or even that you have lost somebody in the first place. You might feel angry about the people around you and their response to the same loss; what they are saying or not saying. The list of things you can feel angry about is endless. Sometimes, you may feel angry for no apparent reason at all.
It’s important to remember that no matter how much pain you’re in, there is most definitely an appropriate and healthy way of expressing your anger. Responding in the heat of the moment can lead to unintentional consequences which, in my experience, will most likely add more stress to what you’re already going through. Sadly, I’ve seen most of these consequences; fractured friendships or relationships, poor well-being, damage to physical health, and workplace drama. You don’t need any of that, especially when you’re grieving.
There are 3 parts to anger.
Once you understand the 3 parts, it’s easier to intercept the escalation of anger, or any cycles you might find yourself in.
Firstly, anger has a physiological element. Whether you’re aware of it or not, there is a biological process happening in your body when you feel angry. When your anger peaks, there is an increase in heartrate because of the rush of adrenaline. This also means that blood pressure can increase and the muscles become tense or tighten.
Secondly, there is a thought-driven process happening in your mind. This is also known as the cognitive aspect. In other words, your emotional state arrives as a result of the way you think about something. Whether it’s a memory, current situation, or future projection that has led you to feel angry. For example, “this should /shouldn’t have happened.”
Thirdly, there is also a behavioural element. This manifests in the way you choose to express your anger. For example, you might raise your voice, break objects or punch a pillow. These things are an immediate outlet and can offer short-term relief. However, they can cause harm to ourselves and pro-long your anger in the longer term.
So now that you get this, you can begin to see that catching your angry thoughts, noticing when your body is reacting, or when you feel like lashing out, is really an opportunity to pause and respond differently.
Responding not reacting.
It’s okay to feel angry. However, taking a pause and a breath will help you to respond to how your feeling and honour your emotions, rather than reacting in the moment. You will give yourself the time and space needed for your rational brain to kick in.
Here are some things you might like to explore instead:
• Going for a walk and grounding yourself in nature.
• Mindfulness meditation.
• Sitting somewhere quiet and taking a few breaths.
• Journaling or writing down how you feel and the events around it.
• Being creative through art, dance or some other expressive form.
• Talking it through with somebody neutral and applying some problem solving to the situation.
Ask for help.
If you’re feeling stuck with your anger or like the feelings won’t go away, then it may be time to ask for some additional support. Avoiding or ignoring your anger isn’t an option. Trying to control your anger on your own if it’s persistent, isn’t a good idea either.
Asking for help is always a sign of strength, so speak to a professional. You’re welcome to have a chat with me too.