Anger is a very important component in the grieving process. Expressing anger is a vital part of the healing we need. I do not ever want to discourage anger or its expression in any way. but there needs to be at least a word said about not letting the anger dominate us until the grieving is diverted or placed on hold. Maybe some examples will demonstrate what I am trying to say.
Anger does not float well. It needs a place to focus and will find a place even if there is no logic to the place it finds. It is not unusual for widows, for example, to become angry with their husbands for dying even though the husband probably had nothing to do with that happening.
A family suffered two losses in the span of three years. Soon after the husband of one daughter died, their other daughter began a loosing battle with cancer. A short time after their daughter died, the parents began to sense that the daughter whose husband had died was angry with them. Nothing they could do seemed to please her, she became distant and more and more estranged. Her two children began showing the same responses. Every effort of reconciliation was met with either a denial or a delay. As one would expect, the anger towards them began to dominate the parents’ lives. All they could think or talk about was finding answers to what they had done to make their daughter so angry. As time went by and more details emerged it became evident that the anger was also dominating the daughter and her children. Evidently they were having long and detailed conversations about every possible thing the parents had done wrong.
The daughter finally agreed to meet with the parents in her minister’s office. The parents were greeted with a long litany of slights, failures, and presumed responses the daughter assumed they had. Nothing they could say seemed to matter. The fact that the presenting sins were certainly not worthy of the type of anger they generated was not noticed by anyone in the room. When anger focuses, reason has no bearing. The need to be angry dominates and forces the person to hold on to anything that might justify the feelings. The parents acknowledged each charge, apologized and ask for forgiveness but the anger remained unchecked. A similar session with the granddaughter proved to be just as frustrating and unfruitful. The anger will have to be worked through within the people who right now need to be angry. The parents cannot make a dent in the process. The anger is not logical nor justified so being logical and justifying actions only ads to the fire. The counseling sessions proved to be trials where they could only be found guilty and the anger made more intense.
The parents were forced to do one of the hardest things any parent could ever do. They had to back off, put the ball in the daughter and grandchild’s court and hope the anger would pass and reconciliation could happen. They wrote a letter to all involved stating that they acknowledged their errors and asked again for forgiveness but that they were going to back off from the relationship with the understanding that they were not angry and were more than willing to welcome them back when and if they felt comfortable in doing so.
In the letter they stated that the anger was dominating the thinking of all concerned and resulting in their grieving for the husband and the daughter to be diverted and lost in the struggle. They made it clear that they intended to concentrate on working through their grief for the son-in-law and the daughter and not on the problems between the two families.
The diverting of the grieving process is the real cost when we allow the anger that needs to be there and needs to be expressed, to dominate so much that we forget to deal with the pain and loneliness of the loss. I have a friend who is so engrossed in suing the hospital over the death of his wife, that he and his children never talk about her loss and what that means to their lives. The day will come when they realize their grief is still there waiting and unresolved long after the feelings should have been faced.
Anger is a natural and healthy response to grief. It becomes unhealthy when it becomes the dominant and consuming force in our lives. We need balance that lets the anger out to flow freely and then allows us to go cry over the loss.
Copyright Doug Manning of In-Sight Books, Inc. Doug’s books, CDs and DVDs are available at www.insightbooks.com. Post originally published on Doug’s Blog at The Care Community www.thecarecommunity.com.
Updated: January 29, 2015