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Working Through Anger in Grief

Anger is a survival mechanism,  triggering our flight and fight response to danger.  When people feel angry, they want to lash out or attack in some way. Often attached to our anger is a hurt of some kind.

Venting or acting out may release some of anger’s energy in the short term, but it will not take away our anger.

Losses can trigger anger as we protest against the injustice of it all. It may be the untimely death of a loved one, the loss of a job or marriage. In the process, we often build and maintain a grievance that robs us of peace, joy and happiness.  

Three things to remember about anger

 It is okay to be angry

 It is NOT okay to hurt yourself, someone else or anyone’s property

 You are responsible for what you do with your anger

Some constructive ways to deal with anger and grief 

 Admit you feel angry. Denying or pushing it away will only cause it to resurface 

 Find a healthy way to release the immediate tension of anger. Pound a pillow or go to the gym and work out. Run. Walk. Move until the anger energy is released or reduced. Remember that while anger energy may be reduced, the anger itself still needs to be addressed.

 Talk about it. Find a supportive friend, pastor, or other nonjudgmental person who can help clarify your jumble of thoughts and feelings with feedback and validation. Sometimes talking it through will be enough to lay it to rest.

Hanging onto our anger and grievance may feel good in the short term, but is destructive in the long term. Challenge and change how you think about your stituation. Reframing what has happened gives us the opportunity to let go of it.  Healing from grief and anger requires acceptance at some point as we come to terms with the senselessness, unfairness and injustice of life.    

 Bring it to God. If our anger is directed at God, how do we tell Him about it? If we have had negative experiences talking about anger in our past, we may feel that God will treat us the same way: if we talk about our anger we get punished; if we hang on to it, it continues to fester and grow. 

I believe God is more capable of handling our anger than we are. The Bible reveals a personal and loving God who understands our foibles and frailities; a God who wants us to come to Him with our questions, doubts and expressions of pain and anger. When we do, we find release, healing and peace. 

When we are honest with God, we learn more about ourselves, our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  It becomes a clarifying, humbling and transforming experience. 

If you are uncomfortable telling God about your pain and anger, use the Psalms as a starting place. The Psalmists came to God with all their problems, complaints and pleas.  They also came to worship and praise Him for all the blessings they received. 

The Psalmists believed God was a Heavenly Father who cared about every aspect of their life – the good and the bad – the ups and the downs. They felt comfortable telling God whatever was on their heart.   

If there is a history of anger in your past, a loss can intensify that anger. If anger continues to dominate your grieving, I encourage you to seek a professional counselor to help work through it.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

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