It can feel utterly unnatural to feel angry about a life-changing loss. It feels like you should be wiping away tears of sadness rather than feeling your face burn with rage.
You may feel guilty for feeling like you need to scream when everyone around you is crying. You may be asking yourself if this is the way you are supposed to feel. How is this healthy?
Why Do I Feel Like This?
Grief comes in many forms. Perhaps someone dear to you has died—whether unexpectedly or over the course of time. You may have lost your job, your home, or recently received a seemingly bleak medical diagnosis. One shared root of grief is loss.
Something that was there is no longer there—whether it’s a person, a way of life, or a state of being. When we lose something that we once relied on, we also lose power over the situation. It’s frustrating feeling helpless. It’s not fair. We may feel we need to see how we lost that power so we can get it back somehow.
My family and I recently experienced a loss. It was the loss of my kind, sweet father-in-law. I was surprised that my first internal reaction was actually anger, before feeling sadness, and I struggled with that.
Is It Healthy?
Anger is a natural response to losing control and has long been linked to grief.
You may be asking how something so negative can be healthy and if it is natural, why do we lash out at otherwise innocent people? Culturally, anger is seen as a negative emotion. We tend to not want to be perceived negatively, so we suppress emotions which we feel are wrong. When these seemingly unnatural emotions go unacknowledged and unexpressed, they build and may present in harmful or problematic ways.
Repressed emotions act like a poison. They may cause us to hurt ourselves or others, whether intentionally or not. They may manifest as physical ailments, substance abuse problems, or lead to further mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. It’s not the anger itself that’s unhealthy. Repressing emotions is detrimental to our health and our relationships.
How Do I Cope with Anger?
It is certainly not healthy to express anger in ways that may cause harm to yourself or others. You may find feelings of resentment or frustration consuming your thoughts, making it hard to focus throughout the day. If you find yourself engaging in unhealthy behaviors, it may be beneficial to take some time to take a step back and sit with your emotions.
Examine how you’re feeling. Are you angry at a person, a situation, or do you feel let down by your spiritual beliefs? Be mad. Recognize your anger and examine why you’re feeling those feelings. Could other emotions be masking themselves as anger? Are you afraid of what the future may hold? Perhaps you may feel more comfortable being seen as angry rather than vulnerable in your sadness.
Denying your emotions won’t bring healthy resolutions. Let it out.
How Can I Safely Express Anger?
It can be confusing to process emotions perceived as negative. Try to find creative outlets for your anger. Exercise, journaling, and meditation are regarded as healthy mechanisms to process uncomfortable emotions.
Practice self care and make sure your daily needs are being met. If anger and grief are making it hard to function in your daily life, consider having an honest dialogue with someone you trust.
Where Do I Go from Here?
No timeline or step-by-step method works for everyone. You may have to explore various methods to resolve your anger and grief. You may find a licensed therapist or grief counselor best prepared to assist you through this process.
If you need help, reach out. If you are angry when you feel you should be grieving, you are not alone. You have the right to be angry. Be sure to address your emotions and your personal needs to heal through grief therapy.
About the author(s)
Karen is the founder and Clinical Director of Cohesive Therapy NYC. She earned a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has extensive training in Hypnosis, Anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brainspotting, and DGBI. She is a member of the Institute of Certified Anxiety Treatment Professionals, The Rome Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers, The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, and the American Social of Clinical Hypnosis.