Speak Up, Mourners! What Makes You Angry?

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Anger is often a part of the grief experience.  My personal definition of anger is “simply not liking how things happened or how they are.”  The anger in grief can be everything from full on “wrath” to constant irritation or frustration.  Every mourner experiences their anger in unique ways and for unique reasons.  Some of the most common factors causing anger that mourners have shared with me in grief counseling and grief support groups are:

  • Anger at the manner and details of the death
  • Anger at the person(s) you hold responsible for the death
  • Anger over services provided or not provided during caregiving for your loved one
  • Anger at God
  • Anger at the loved one who died (feelings of abandonment, feelings that the loved one “gave up”, suicide, etc)
  • Anger at the loved one when long held secrets are revealed (hidden financial dealings, infidelities, a secret second life/relationships, etc)
  • Anger at yourself (regrets, guilt over bad decisions)
  • Anger at how you got the news of the death
  • Anger at family members for their responses, lack of response, on-going family differences
  • Anger at the unfairness of death
  • Anger caused by the losses suffered
  • Anger at other’s reaction to the death, to your loss, to your grief response (includes well-intended or insensitive responses)
  • Anger at Death itself
  • Anger at having to go through grief
  • Anger at dealing with all the consequences after the death (funeral preparations & services, legal paperwork, dealings with wills, inheritances, probate decisions, insurance, social security redtape, etc)

This certainly is not an exhaustive list.  In fact, you could probably add a few reasons you experience anger in your grief journey to complete this list.  Take time now and think about what really makes you angry in grief and share those reasons for your personal anger with me and other readers.

REMEMBER: Emotions experienced in grief are neither good nor bad.  That includes anger.  In grief we can’t always choose what emotions we feel, but we can choose how to express those emotions.  Choose to show your anger in healthy, appropriate, and constructive ways.  Then expressing that anger wisely and in healthy ways will help you to heal.

Written by Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT author of the grief survival guide “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise”  available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Christianbook.com.

The grief survival guide is also available in Spanish as “El Amor Nunica Muere: Aceptando el Dolor con Esperanza y Promesa” on Amazon.com.

Larry is the director of GriefWorks, a free grief support program for children and their families in Dallas TX  http://grief-works.org.



8 Comments Add yours

  1. kmw87 says:

    I always felt guilty about being angry. I’m angry that he left us, I’m angry at the circumstances of his death. I find myself thinking about the ‘what ifs’ if I had done something different, would he still be here.
    We worked so hard to make our marriage work and for it to end like that. He was my soul-mate, my best friend, my everything.

    1. Very few people are more justified in feeling angry than those who have lost a loved one to death. Blessings.

  2. Misshimsooooo says:

    I get it. In fact, I read you post twice, wondering if I wrote it & temporarily forgot! Seems like I forget a lot more than before grief! I have had the exact same anger / feelings – I was mad at stupid little things like rolling trash cans out to curb & changing light bulbs because that was HIS JOB!

  3. nancyspoint says:

    I thought I just left this comment, but not sure it “took”, so if I’m repeating myself, apologies. I am all for feeling one’s anger. Doing so is often frowned upon in Cancerland too. I believe acknowledging anger is part of how we process through difficult times. Sometimes anger is a completely legitimate response to a situation. The trick is figuring out what to do with one’s anger. Thanks for writing about something I’ve written about myself a few times. Great list.

  4. I agree that figuring out what to do with the anger is quite a trick, and honestly it is the only thing we do have control over-how to respond. Our initial responses may be more reactions, but over the long run of grief we begin to make choices about what to do with the different emotions. Are we going to continue to be angry, or are we going to work-sometimes very slowly- toward letting go of the anger and find new ways to deal with those emotions? This is a great list and acknowledging the anger is definitely the starting point.

    1. Great question, Cindy! Over time our grief changes and grief emotions can change. Obsessing on the anger can be detrimental for the mourner’s well being and his/her grief. With help, support, and often release of the anger in positive ways, the troublesome emotion of anger can be lessened. Blessings in your grief journey.

  5. Lane says:

    Lately, I’m angry at everything–losing my partner, the grief itself, at having difficulty doing “normal” things, angry that I don’t enjoy the same things, angry at the process, the upheaval, the changes–you name it!

    1. Lane,

      Thanks for your comments and your honesty. I’ve been there.

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