- Grief can unfold differently for each individual mourning a difficult loss, but a common emotion that arises is anger.
- If you feel angry after losing a loved one, you should first ask yourself where that anger might stem from: are you angry at the situation, the person, maybe a spiritual figure?
- A common cause of anger when it comes to grief is the individual’s reluctance to accept that they have to continue life without their loved one.
- You can also get to the root of your anger by exploring other difficult emotions: these include sadness and fear.
- Finally, lean into all of the pain you are experiencing—as suppressing your feelings will only prolong your grief.
There are five highly publicized universal stages of grief: denial and seclusion, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These were first defined by Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969 and they have since been widely used to describe how we react to a heartbreaking loss. But here’s the thing: coping with a devastating loss is an incredibly individual and personal experience. So, while one might experience the aforementioned “stages of grief” there’s no telling exactly how this or that person will grieve the loss of a loved one: you might experience denial, or you might accept the loss from the get-go; you could grow increasingly angry, or you could sink into a low level of despair.
All of that being said, the question at hand remains: how can one work through anger they may feel as related to the loss of a loved one?
What Does Your Anger Stem From?
Kriss Kevorkian, PhD, MSW, further emphasizes the fact that grief varies from person to person. But for those who do experience anger after losing a loved one, she says they must first get to the root of their anger in order to heal properly. A grief counselor can help them determine the source of anger as well as healthy coping strategies for dealing with the loss. “Grief is unique to each person, and while some might find anger a part of their own grieving process, others do not. When anger is involved, it’s important to look at it and find out if you’re angry about the situation, the person who died, or perhaps even God,” she says. “The best tip is to discuss this with a grief counselor who can help the person with his/her grieving process and find ways for that individual to cope with the loss he/she has had.”
Kevorkian goes on to explain that anger may result from the fact that “the person now has to deal with life on his/her own since a loved one has died.” She identifies a few examples of an individual’s anger relating to life without the individual who has passed:
- If you’re an adult child whose parent died, what will this mean for your life and all the plans you had to share in those important life events… like marriage and having children with your parent by your side, teaching you how to raise your children?
- What if the death was sudden from an accident and a young person was killed. How would one handle the anger to God? Why would God allow that to happen?
What Other Emotions Are You Experiencing?
Did you have any luck? Exploring other emotions can further aid you in discovering the cause of your anger. Melissa Hudson, licensed marriage and family therapist, explains how confronting other negative feelings like sadness, fear, and pain can help you to better understand your anger and ultimately help you heal from the loss:
“The anger stage of grief can certainly feel confusing. “Why am I so angry?” you may wonder. “Is this a good thing?” What is important to realize about anger is that it is a secondary emotion; underneath it is a primary emotion, often sadness or fear. It is often helpful to try to slow yourself down a bit and ask, “What is my fear? What is my sadness?” These questions and, more importantly, the answers will highlight what concerns you are still working with regarding your grief.
Another helpful tip as you move through grief and confront anger is to try to lean into the pain. Don’t try to turn it off or avoid it. Go ahead and feel—feel as much as you can bear. Why? Because this will help you continue to move through grief. When we suppress feelings, stuff them, or ignore them, they don’t go away… they are just unresolved. Unfortunately, there is no going around and skipping hard feelings. There is only going through it to reach acceptance. And when we have unresolved feelings, they often come up in unexpected ways. If you kick feelings under the rug, I assure you: you will continue to trip over them. So face it, name it, feel it, and you will have it behind you sooner than later.”