Anger is one of the oft discussed stages of the grief process. We all know what anger is. Anger can range from slightly angry to outright rage. This is one of the stages that some have a tendency to repeat at different times while working through their grief process. Anger is the stage that has us asking “why” to so many things. Why me? Why did this happen? Life’s not fair is something else frequently said. But what is the point of the anger? Does it serve a purpose?
Anger is a sign that you’re feeling, that you are no longer numb. The feeling of anger, and the subsequent ebbing, are important cycles to have in dealing with grief. Anger has a tendency to happen after denial. Now, I said tendency, that doesn’t mean that it always happens that way. The individual stages of grief don’t happy in any set order for everyone, but there’s enough of a pattern that we can say what usually occurs. During denial we can go numb, so when we move on to anger, the numbness ebbs. This actually is helpful for us to find our emotional bearings at times. What happens with our anger is something that we need to take ownership of. How to handle it, channel it, and use it in our healing process.
There are many who tell us to try to ‘control’ our anger. The problem with trying to control the anger is that some of us will bottle the anger, or try to hide it in some way. When we bottle or hide our anger, we can become a veritable powder keg of emotions. That can be detrimental not only to ourselves, but to everyone around us and our relationships with others.
Avoiding the powder keg
Anger can come in waves, outbursts, or even a slow burn. The key to anger is finding ways to recognize it for what it is. It is our emotion, and our anger. We have to find ways to accept the anger as ours. Accept that the anger is yours. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it often, we have to claim our emotions. Our emotions are ours alone. No one makes us feel anything. On that same thought, no one can take our emotions. Regardless of the emotion, we have to own it, learn from it, and use it for our own sake. This even applies to anger.
Once we find the ways to own our emotions, yes, even the anger, we can change how we tackle our world. I’m not saying that every time we’re angry we’re going to have it under control, because we’re not. What I am saying is that by learning ways to recognize it, it gets easier to handle. I said “easier to handle” not get rid of. Anger is something that can motivate us when channeled correctly. I’m guilty of having anger and taking it out on those around me. I don’t do it on purpose, but I’ve done it at times before I recognized it. The key is when we recognize it, use it to push us forward.
All of these things play into avoiding the powder keg. By learning to recognize, and then utilize it, we are able to handle and deal with our anger. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen every time. However, even if it is half the time that we recognize it, we avoid the bottling up and powder keg. There have been times that it has been easy for me to notice my anger, and I try to apologize ahead of time, just in case I get snippy with my words. I don’t mean to aim it at anyone I love, but sometimes my reactions are far too quick for me to think about it. Other times, I am able to focus and work through my thoughts and feelings, even if the anger stays, I can still process things and work through it without having a blow up of any sort.
Recognizing it, owning it, handling it, and avoiding the powder keg. Great! We have a game plan! However, we have to remember this isn’t a one time thing. Not only is the grief process a cycle that we can move through repeatedly… anger in and of itself is something we move through repeatedly.
The anger cycle
The grief process is a cycle, and many times is an on-going one. Thus, each part of the process can be cyclic through time. With anger, each cycle can be different than the last. Some will be lengthy and difficult to get through, others will be easier to handle. One of the biggest tricks for me is recognizing if I have any triggers. I try to think about things that led up to the anger. Did something trigger a memory and set off my anger? Was I dealing with something else that made me angry and things just merged together? I’m not always quick to sort it out, but it does eventually happen.
As you work through cycles of anger and cycles of grief, each cycle changes; changes you, and changes how you view everything. We have to view each episode as a way to learn a new way to handle things. One thing to remember about everything in the grief process, we are all learning new things about ourselves. Every step along the way teaches you something new, don’t be hard on yourself when you stumble. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, bandage your wounds and take another step. It is okay to have days when you’re not okay, even when you’re cycling through a phase again.
Another challenge! This week, think about your moments of anger and see if you can find any triggers. Also, think about those times and see if there is anything that has helped you through them.
Remember, you are not alone on this journey, or any journey you take. We’d love to hear from you on this, share with us your anything you’d like to share. Own your journey and we’ll catch you on the flip side.