In any discussion on grief, it is vital to address the elephant in the room: Anger. Part of the process of moving through grief is to accept and address the inevitable anger that is part of that process. Now, I know that many people are in denial about this anger thing. I have heard everything from, “I’m not angry because they died” to “I can’t be angry, this person is dead. I can’t be angry.” Someone once even said, “I’m sure I’m not angry, but I’m not sure what I feel.”
When I was dealing with my own losses several years ago, I either said or thought all of the above plus some I haven’t heard from other people. How could I possibly be angry with these loved ones who died? They didn’t do it on purpose, being angry with them didn’t make sense. And that was when I finally hit on the problem: I was angry, but not specifically with them!
I was angry about being left, having no idea that this was going to happen. I was angry that my future had dramatically changed and I had no input at all. I was angry at God, I was angry at myself, you name it, I was angry with or about it! Let’s face it, I was just plain angry! I was working with someone, who was helping me with my grief process, and he suggested I consider finding some way to acknowledge my anger without blaming. If my son, or his father, were still alive following the accident and the heart attack, what would I say to them?
So I gave this some very serious thought. If my son were still living, I would obviously be relieved and then I would let him have it for being in a situation that could have been fatal. (Kinda like swatting your child who ran out in the road after you hug them.) So I got his picture and told him exactly how I was feeling! And then I got a picture of his dad and did the same thing. (“Why didn’t you go to the doctor more often!?!) And after I did these exercises, I noticed something strange, but awesome. I didn’t feel angry anymore and I didn’t feel guilty about addressing it.
I had a client once who had lost a loved one over a decade earlier. They were seeking anger management treatment and once I learned about the death, I worked with this person to release their anger. They were initially angry that I even suggested such a thing, but after some thought, they gave it a try. The next time I saw them, they had a different look and air about them. This person shook my hand and shook their head and simply said, “I didn’t think it would work. I was angry at you for suggesting I was angry and I did it just prove you were wrong! In the end, I proved you weren’t wrong and I felt better than I have felt in years.”
Sometimes it works that way. Sometimes it is just the start, depending on what still needs to be healed in each person. The point is simple: we all have anger to deal with when we lose people we love. When you are ready, give yourself permission to feel the anger and release the anger in whatever way works for you. That’s when healing has the best chance to move forward.
I understand that it’ll never be okay with me that these people are gone, but I also understand I am okay and they would want me to be okay. Loved ones would always want what’s best for us.