Week 2 – Anger

Damn Right I’m Bitter!

Damn Right I’m Angry!

By Mary Van Bockern

 

I heard through the grapevine thatYou think I’m bitter.

Damn right I’m bitter!

I heard that you wonder if I’m not

“stuck” in the angry stage of grief.

Damn right I’m angry!

It’s only been a few months; who gave you

The right to decide how long I should grieve?

 

My beautiful daughter is dead.

Not out on a visit to grandma’s.

Not off to school for the day.

Dead.

 

I didn’t pick out her Easter outfit with

The intention of burying her in it.

I didn’t bathe her little body and brush

Her hair knowing it was to be my last

Chance to touch her warmth, never imagining

The next touch would be of a cold, hard

Unmoving little girl.

 

Damn right I’m bitter!

Damn right I’m angry!

 

You have no right to judge me.

Believe me, you have no idea

Of what I’m trying to live through

 

If I make you feel uncomfortable, believe me,

You return the feeling.

You go home to your healthy, living children

And wonder how I can act this way?

 

You go home to your normal life, while I

Go home to face a life without my daughter.

The rug has been jerked out from under me.

My network of faith, of religion seems to have

Collapsed under me, with no safety net.

I am tumbling in a foreign life, grasping

For something that will help this make sense.

 

You leave our meeting, rushing to take your

Children from the nursery to playschool.

You talk about the hassle of finding time to

Get your kids’ Christmas outfits bought,

Their Christmas pictures taken, the expense of gifts.

I leave empty-armed, no hassles for me,

Except to return to my quiet empty home. . . alone.

No gift expenses for me, except funeral and the

Purchase of a plot of ground to place my baby in.

No big Christmas outfit decisions, only decisions

For a headstone that is supposed to express our

Love for our dead daughter.

 

So. . . you think I’m bitter?

You think I’m angry?

Damn right I’m bitter!

Damn right I’m angry!

 

Who better?

 

Anger In Grief

By Rachel Barletta, Grief Services Coordinator

Anger is a very common experience in grief, but it is an emotion that is often not talked about, accepted, or understood.  People expect to feel sadness when a loved one dies – it is a socially sanctioned and supported experience.  While anger is a common experience, many grievers may worry that their anger is inappropriate, or “wrong”.  Grievers may feel guilt about having this emotional experience.  It is important to remember that anger IS a completely normal and appropriate response to loss.

For grievers that are struggling with anger as part of their grieving journey, it can be helpful to take a closer look at the source of this powerful emotion.  When a loved one dies, some grievers may feel angry at the person who died.  You may feel angry that your plans, hopes, and expectations for the future have been dashed.  You may feel angry that you now have to take on challenges and roles that were previously handled by your loved one.  We may have to make difficult decisions, learn new life skills.  Life is all at once more difficult than it was before!  You may no longer have a role that brought meaning to your life, such as being a parent to your child.  While we rationally may not wish to feel anger at our loved ones for the ways in which life has become more challenging in their absence, we are overwhelmed and devastated and it is normal to feel anger.

You may feel anger toward health care providers who were involved in your loved one’s care.  We put our trust in health care providers and it can be enormously frustrating when our loved one does not recover as we hope they will, or when we question the care that they received.

You may feel anger toward God or a higher power.  You may feel betrayed or abandoned.  Life may seem enormously unfair.

You may feel anger at other people in your life – people who do not seem to understand what you are going through, people who seem to take for granted what they have, people who say the wrong things or are not there for you in the way you need them to be.

It is also normal to feel angry at yourself.  You may run through thoughts such as “if only I’d. . .”, “I should have. . .”, questioning things you did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say.

Anger often arises in response to other emotions that are beneath the surface.  Beneath anger there is often a sense of helplessness, sadness, or fear.

Anger is an emotion that needs time and attention. It needs to be expressed and addressed. It can be enormously helpful to have a safe space or person in which to process your feelings of anger in grief. This can be a grief counselor, support group, or trusted friend or family member.  Sometimes voicing our anger and telling our story (and at times, telling it again, and again), can help diffuse our anger.  Telling our story in a safe and trusted environment can help us uncover the pain that may be beneath the surface of our anger.  Talking to a counselor or attending a support group can be particularly valuable, as we can learn coping strategies for managing anger when it arises.

I want to offer some practical suggestions for addressing and coping with anger.

–      First and foremost, find a safe place to discuss how you’re feeling. As previously stated, grief counseling may be a helpful outlet for expressing and exploring your feelings. Talk to someone who you trust, someone who is there for you and willing to listen without judgement, someone who you feel may have some insight into what you are experiencing.

–      Sometimes you may prefer to express your feelings aloud to yourself. Find a safe space in which you have privacy.  Speak aloud about the anger you are feeling.  Yell if you need to.

–      If you are unable or unwilling to speak about your anger, writing can be another helpful outlet.  Keep a journal in which you can let out and reflect on what you are feeling.  Or, rather than keeping a formal journal, write about your anger on a piece of paper and rip it up or crumple it up, and throw it out.  The act of throwing away or ripping up what we write can feel like a symbolic “letting go”.

–      I want to stress again that anger is a completely normal experience in grieving.  At times you may need to remind yourself (and remind yourself again) that it is okay to feel angry, that there is nothing wrong with you, that you are not a bad person for feeling this way, that this is not a feeling you need to push away or deny.

At times it is helpful to employ coping or self-care strategies to diffuse anger when it arises. I want to offer some suggestions that may help shift your mood or lessen the intensity of emotions when they arise.

–      Take a break.  Go do something that you enjoy, such as gardening, listening to or playing music, sitting or walking outside in nature, playing a game, doing a craft, etc.  Sometimes these activities can slow our racing mind and bring us more peacefully into the present moment.

–      Be active.  Talk a walk or exercise if you’re able.

–      Practice self-compassion.  Try to show kindness and understanding toward yourself for what you are feeling.  It can be helpful to imagine that a loved one is going through what we are going through. How would you respond to and support your loved one in their suffering?  Practice treating yourself in the same way.

–      Develop affirmations that help shift your perspective and help you feel more able to cope.  These will be individual to you.  Perhaps you can tell yourself “I will be okay”, or “I can get through today”.  Write these down and put them somewhere where you can regularly see them.

–      Consciously practice gratitude.  Every day, reflect on things in your life that you are grateful for. This may feel enormously difficult when we are devastated by grief.  If you are struggling with this practice, think small.  Perhaps you can find gratitude for a sunny day, for a warm cup of coffee, for a call from a friend.

–      Look into relaxation and mindfulness strategies.  These may be deep breathing exercises, formal meditation, yoga or mindful movement, etc.  There are many articles and videos available on the internet, or you can reach out to a counselor who can help work with you on building these skills.

Virtual Grief Series

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