Grief is showing me there is a new side to myself that I am trying to understand.
I think for individuals in “normal” situations (I use this term very loosely), I believe anger is a flair of emotion which is useful for showing that there is a problem or a situation which is unjust and needs correcting.
However, when you are grieving or under strong levels of stress, anger can come instantly, and over something big or small; you can be venomously angry over how unfair your loss was, or what you went through, or you can be venomously angry over the fact you can’t find your shoe, or someone didn’t wash up a plate. It is easy to get overwhelmed and to get lost in the emotion.
I think for grieving people, anger stems from a fear of losing more, and being afraid of further violation to us, similar to the violation we felt through death. It can be unbridled and untamed, and make you want to scream out in your frustration. I feel as though when I am grieving, anger seems like the most direct channel to stop hurting; I don’t want to think about seeing my loved one weak or vulnerable, so I fuel your pain towards a situation or individual who let you down, for instance. This way it is easier to control, and I don’t feel so terrible. But although it is hard, anger isn’t always the healthiest option.
For me, anger does not usually arrive without a call, however, even if my anger is valid, it doesn’t make it easier to deal with. Now, my relationship with anger is not a hugely toxic one, but it has caused me a lot of identity issues, because I hate losing control, and being careless with other people’s emotions and these go hand in hand with anger. So, I have had to find ways of dealing with it.
When we had just lost our mum, I enjoyed the anger sometimes. It made me feel alive. First of all, my body would physically be responding; heart hammering, clenched fists, shaking. But also, because it was a vivid colour of red in my grey world. I quickly became aware that this wasn’t healthy, and I found other ways to feel alive; mainly through sessions with Balloons, and by writing stories and poetry again.
I know myself well enough that at these times, it is best to keep myself to myself and be alone for a while. I am aware however, that this is easier said than done.
I try to stay silent, because the last thing I want to do is say something I don’t mean or make the situation worse just because I feel angry. In my head, sometimes I hear my Mum telling me to breathe and that everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end. She could be a feisty person when she needed to be, and she had quite the temper, but imagining her saying this, soothes me sometimes.
To deal with my anger, I believe the most important thing is to know what sparks this emotion. I know what my so-called triggers are, and that makes it easier for me to just breathe. Sometimes, this isn’t obviously always possible.
Next, I believe the best way to deal with it is to take yourself out of the situation, or find a different mode to vent out your anger. This is a positive outcome of a situation because you can’t ‘lash out’ unintentionally, and you can take this time to look after yourself whilst you cool off. For example, journaling or exercise. For me, when I first used to experience true anger, I would go to the swimming pool, and swim as fast as I could until I was truly spent. Other times, I would go running, and the physical exertion of it was enough to put me in a more reasonable state of mind.
Finally, although anger is a useful emotion at times, if you are feeling it in excess and frequently, and your usual techniques aren’t working, I suggest counselling.
Anger is said to be one of the stages of grief. I am a firm believer that we have to feel everything in order to survive, heal and move forward. If we consider emotions as tools to deal with life, we need each and every one of them for a purpose. So, do not suppress it; we can always try to learn how to deal with it. You will be stronger for it.
Throughout the grieving process, we are going to learn a lot about ourselves. We might not recognise all these pieces of ourselves, and some of bits of us we may be more ashamed of than others. But it is a process, and learning to control these things, whilst maintaining our sense of self-worth, is what is vital throughout this.