Anger is the most commonly processed second stage of grief for many individuals. This is true for people working through both the untimely and the expected death of a loved one. This is also one of the most uncomfortable of the five stages of grief.
Like all the other stages of grief, Anger is a natural coping mechanism when faced with the death of a loved one. Still, it is essential to find healthy ways of processing these emotions.
Why We Get Angry
Anger at this point can take many forms (bitterness, resentment, or outright rage). People lash out at whatever is in their way- this could be family members, friends, or even inanimate objects. When there is a death, lives are interrupted, and all of the plans you made are left unfulfilled. You might be angry at yourself for this fact or at the other people around you. You may even feel anger towards the individual or loved one that passed.
It’s important to understand that anger may not always be clear-cut rage or fury. Instead, it may disguise itself as resentment or bitterness. Some individuals will linger in the anger stage, some will pass by it briefly, and others will skip it entirely. This randomness is consistent through all five stages of grief.
An example of natural anger would include anger at a higher power. Perhaps asking oneself why a higher power would inflict the pain of death, often accompanied by a crisis of faith. Another might be anger at the loved one themself. “If she had quit smoking, this never would have happened.”
How to Work Through the Anger
Anger is a vital part of the healing process for many individuals. Even though this is often a very uncomfortable stage, you will need to be willing to feel the anger, to process the emotion, before it will fade. Healing can only progress when you have processed some of this anger.
After processing the emotion, the anger will naturally subside. (Note there is no “correct timeline” for this.) Then the grieving individual will begin to think more rationally about the death of the loved one with time. Only then can they experience the broader range of emotions they have either consciously or unconsciously been pushing aside.
The anger stage is often also accompanied by things like self-blame, shame, and guilt. It is vital to feel these emotions as well, just as it is critical to feel the anger, but recognize them for what they are- emotions, inherent human reactions, but not fundamental truths. While these emotions are understandable, they are not always rational.
This grief, shame, and guilt are not far removed from feelings of anger and rage. The process of grief always includes qualities of anger. Since none of us likes to admit being mad at a deceased person, these emotions are often disguised or repressed. This prolongs the period of grief or shows up in other ways. It is best to remember that it is not up to us to judge such feelings as wrong or shameful but to understand their true meaning and origin as something very human.
You love the person but hate them for leaving you- that, like all other aspects of the Stages of Grief, is natural too. Read about Stage One of Grief, denial.
If you would like to receive more information on processing the impending death of a loved one, please contact Bluebird Health.
This is one of the great things about Bluebird Health’s Hospice program. They help families and patients deal with loss. Social Workers assist in counseling and help make end-of-life wishes come true. Eventually they assist in the grieving process through additional counseling and through Bluebird’s bereavement support program.