Grief and Anger — How to deal with anger
By Janelle Shantz Hertzler
Grief and anger is a more common combination than those of us in the midst of grief would like to admit. We often think of people who are experiencing grief because of crime or because of someone’s negligence as having the most likely reason for anger. However, it is also common and normal to experience anger toward God, the person who died, toward people who say the wrong thing, toward people who don’t say anything at all, and toward the world in general.
Grief and Anger at God:
God often gets the blame when bad things happen—after all an all-powerful being should have been able to prevent our pain. If your anger is directed at God, you are not alone. In fact a great many Biblical writers expressed anger at God. You might want to check out the website section on using the Psalms of Lament for the grief journey. King David, writer of much of the Psalms, was called a man after God’s own heart. So obviously God does not reject people on account of anger.
Dealing with Anger:
Anger that is not acknowledged and worked through can fester inside and become a way of life. What is behind so much of the violence in our society? Is it not angry people who never found healthful ways to deal with their pain? So take some time to reflect on your life. Although grief is probably a more extreme situation, you will likely remember other times when you were angry and found ways to deal with it. What worked for you? Did vigorous physical exertion help you release pent up emotions? Is gardening a soothing balm for your soul?
“Why me?” . . . “Why them?”
We will stay most angry when we are focused on our own pain and loss. And, again, this is legitimate reason to be angry. But in order to not be consumed by your anger, you might start to ask yourself, “Why them?” What pain exists in their life that caused them to do what they did? In my situation, I had to wonder how bad can a man’s life be that he is on the road drunk at 9:00 in the morning? It does not make his actions okay, but it helps me move outside my own pain. My goal is to deal with my anger so I don’t spend the rest of my life passing it on to others. So I will let myself imagine the pain this man carried with him as he drove down the road that day.
Creativity to Heal Grief and Anger
Many people find creative outlets to be very healing for both grief and anger. As I have said elsewhere on this site during my own grief journey emotion often felt like it was frozen within me. Taking time to do grief journaling, write grief poems, or spending time wandering in the trees dealing with grief by taking photos were all powerful means of thawing the emotion and getting it outside my body.
Turn Anger into Positive Action:
Mothers Against Drunk Divers was begun by a mother whose daughter was killed by a repeat drunk driving offender. I recently read a blog by a woman whose husband was killed because of negligent safety standards at his workplace. She is working to get policy changed so that it won’t happen again. You may even being doing something that doesn’t necessarily seem like it is going to be helpful to others at the time you are doing it. I wrote poetry to express my grief and anger. Now it has become Seasons of Solace and I am being asked to give poetry readings in various venues. It is helping people connect with their own grief and anger and the beauty to be found in living life to the full. It may take some time to track down the positive action that is a good fit for you. But if you keep your eyes open, you will find something.