Loss and Anger

Anger can be unattractive, there’s no question about it. It’s messy and unpredictable, sometimes loud and violent. And in a world where we like things to make sense, it’s often unacceptable. But never more than when you’re grieving. There’s a long list of people we can be angry with:

The person who died: why didn’t they take better care of themselves? Why didn’t they ask for help? Why did they take such a stupid chance? What were they thinking?

The medical community: why didn’t the doctors notice something was wrong? Why didn’t the paramedics get there sooner? Why hasn’t someone discovered a cure for cancer, etc.?

God: why did you make a good person suffer? Why did you leave those parents without a child? Why did you leave those children without a parent? Why them? Why now? Why not someone else? Why not me?

The family: why didn’t they make him go to the doctor? Why did they let her live alone?

Why?

Why?

Why?

Death is, after all, the great unknown. Despite stories of white lights and visions of deceased relatives, no one’s come back from any extended time in the afterlife. We don’t know what awaits us.

And we REALLY don’t know why people die when they do. We say “it was just their time,” and obviously, it was.  When the person we lose is a friend, that sense of helplessness can create even deeper anger.

Many times when I’ve grieved I’ve been angry, although I rarely shared those feelings. Despite being one of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ famous stages of grief, it’s probably the least acknowledged.

Anger can be useful, but when turned inward, is more likely referred to as depression. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about white-hot, body-shaking, screaming-at-the-top-of-your-lungs anger.

You’ve already realized that the grief you feel for your friend is being devalued because you’re not family. And that can add to the anger you already feel.

Even those who are also grieving are unlikely to accept your anger. Think of Sally Field melting down in the cemetery in Steel Magnolias, and the shock on her friends’ faces. The minister in The Big Chill – “I’m angry, and I don’t know what to do with my anger” – is much calmer about it, but the look in his eyes is anything but.

The problem with suppressing the absolutely justified anger we feel when a friend dies is that it will bubble up eventually. It will present itself suddenly and loudly and often in a completely unrelated situation. And that presents its own complications. Screaming at a barista who doesn’t know you won’t bring back your friend.

So, if you’re angry that cancer treatments and cures came too late for your friend…

If you’re angry that your friend’s family dismissed her threats of suicide…

If you’re angry that your friend drove drunk…

If you’re angry that an evil person chose your friend at random to kill…

Embrace that anger: accept it and embrace it. You’re angry because of the pain that your friend’s death has caused. That’s, dare I say it, normal. Frankly, it would be strange if you weren’t angry. You’re angry because you loved them and wanted them to stay close to you always. Selfish maybe, but normal and human.

So, as long as you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else, you have my permission to be angry. Then you can work on channeling your anger into positive action, to keep your friend’s memory alive every day of your life.

Guest author Victoria Noe created FriendGrief to discuss the idea that there are profound differences in grieving the death of a friend, as opposed to a family member.  While she writes on the loss of friends, her ideas can often apply to any individual who has suffered any type of loss.

21 Comments:

  1. Leslie Young said on January 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm ... #

    I agree that losing someone is never easy and can lead a person to feel grief in their life. I suggest taking a look at this continuing education website for great tools on how to help overcome grief from losing a loved one.

    http://onlineceucredit.com/edu/grief-dl

  2. Judi Papp said on January 16, 2012 at 10:58 pm ... #

    I have had to deal with death my whole life. From losing my best friend at 12, to losing my brother to suicide at 21. If you can understand that you have to go through it and not set it aside you will be better off. If you feel sad one day, two days or five days , let yourself be sad . I think when I actually knew I had to face it is when I accepted that God will bring me to a brighter day. But it does take time to accept it . It is a process, if God takes you to it, he will lead you through it.

  3. Anonymous said on March 24, 2012 at 12:25 pm ... #

    This is something my 14 year old daughter and I have been discussing as of late. Her father passed away in 2004. While sure to some degree some of his health most definitely were genetic he certainly didn’t help matters in that he rarely took the doctors’ advice and looking back both she and I would have to admit that just maybe if he had, maybe he’d have had more time.

    Angry? You bet. And yes guilty too for having that anger and that sense of “if you had loved us more you would have, should have listened!”

  4. Marty Tousley, CNS-BC, FT, DCC said on September 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm ... #

    Thank you for this, Victoria. I invite everyone to read my article, “Is Anger One of the Stages of Grief?” http://j.mp/zVUhp5

  5. Anonymous said on September 7, 2012 at 9:31 am ... #

    What if we develop anger for God..? What should we do about it..? What if we feel that our Faith in Life has become com promized..? What if our Faith in Allah seems to be questionable..? I dont know… I really dont know how to express what I am going through.. I am angry at Allah, yet I continue to Pray.. He hasn’t listened to my Prayers in the past, yet I continue to Pray.. Does this mean that we dont have any other option.. and so just is left alone to deal with God.. I really dont know whjat the hell am I trhink9ing or saying.. But I do know that I am not happy…..!

  6. Deena said on September 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm ... #

    It has been almost a year since my 16 year old son was killed in a car accident….I have kept so busy… friends, 2 jobs, running, biking, swimming, drinking…Even since the begining..I only broke totally down a couple of times…the love and support of my family has been unbelievable… however now as I near the year anniversary … I feel myself cracking at the edges….I am drinking more than I ever have, I started smoking cigerattes after quitting 20 years ago… it is like holding on to the edge of a cliff and watching your fingers slipping off… not sure how to stop the train wreck that I am watching…

  7. Alisha K. said on September 14, 2012 at 9:50 am ... #

    Deena, I’m so sorry for what you have been through, and are still going through. I have not experienced the loss of a child, but I have experienced loss and feelings of confusion, sadness, and sometimes hopelessness in the wake. It sounds like you want to move towards a healthier way of facing your grief, and I would really encourage you to find a compassionate counselor who can help you to address the many things you are feeling. I can’t imagine going through the loss of my mom without my counselor. She didn’t “fix me” or answer the deep questions – she helped me to figure out what I was really struggling with and to find my own answers. I think you owe it to yourself to reach out for support – the loss of a child is just too big to try to handle on your own. I will be keeping you in my thoughts.

  8. Trevor said on November 1, 2012 at 8:48 am ... #

    Few women, when they find themselves widows, are ready for the crushing emotional blows accompanying their new state. To their surprise, “grief” takes many forms: anger, bitterness, paranoia, loss of sleep, irritableness, among others. How can a woman cope with this problem? One, Lynn Caine, relates her experience in Widow, a recently published book. She says: “The best single bit of advice I can give to other widows may be—keep your job if you have one, and find one if you don’t. . . . A part-time job, a volunteer job, anything that will provide you with a routine and stability. . . . You have to understand that your mind is not working properly. Even though you think it is.”

    However desirable this may be, no human or human agency can erase the hurt inflicted on the victims, nor can humans bring back the dead. What is needed to undo all the damage is far more than what humans can provide. What is really needed is an entirely different arrangement in the world, one that would not be based on today’s selfish and destructive ‘thrills at any cost’ concepts that take so many lives.
    Is there any sound basis in hoping for that kind of a better world where such tragedies would be a thing of the past? Yes, there is. In fact, there is a sure hope of a new world here on earth where these tragedies will cease, a world in which even accident victims will be brought back to life. What indescribable joy when these are reunited with their loved ones! It will be a new world where, in time, the sad memories of past tragedies will forever be erased.
    That hope of a new world is found in God’s inspired Word, the Bible, which states: “[God] will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.” (Isaiah 25:8) This will include bringing back dead ones from the grave. As the apostle Paul wrote: “I have hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) Jesus and the apostles demonstrated this by resurrecting dead ones.—Luke 7:11-16

  9. Vicki said on March 22, 2013 at 2:29 pm ... #

    I lost my 26 year old daughter nearly 3 years ago to a tragic and unexpected accident. A bus ran her over and killed her while she was in a cross walk. She left a huge, loving and awesome family behind and a gorgeous 2 yr old son. She was about to be married to her babies father. He has since moved on with his life and with every turn for him, I get angrier and angrier. He has a new love, he has a home and another baby. My grandson who I nearly raised for 2 yrs, I see less and less…Everytime he pulls away from us, I begin grieving all over again. When he keeps my grandson from us I grieve all over again. I totally understand that he has to move on and he is happy and wants his own family. We are his son’s family. We all deeply love and care for him so much. My heart continues to be broken over and over. I can’t seem to shake this. I think of how my daughter would have a new home right now and be able to raise her own son and possibly have another child by now. I think of how my grandson is happy yet doesn’t have the guidance of his very own mommy. I think about how I would get to be a part of his life on a daily basis and know what he’s doing, how pre school is going, what he likes to eat at home, etc…I don’t get to know those things now. My grandsons daddy doesn’t seem to understand my scope of grief in loosing my precious daughter. I am not getting over it as easily as he did. I yearn for the day that I can look at her picture and not cry. I know the Lord and He has helped me so much. I’ve been angry towards my grandsons dad a couple of times and have yelled. I just want him to understand my pain and he doesn’t. I don’t want to be angry every time he crosses me or hurts me with his actions. I sure wish things could just be like they were. It’s been 3 years and I feel like I just lost her.

  10. rose said on November 29, 2013 at 10:03 pm ... #

    My son lost his best friend Josh in a motorcycle accident,on the july 4th 2013 in a motorcycle accident, since then he has become very angry, he will not talk about, he says mom theres nothing i can do about it. its hard to discuss anything with him, he’s always on the defense.
    He used to come come to our house to visit, now he stays more to himself. All i want to do is take away his hurt, I not sure how to deal with this. i find myself crying & missing Josh, they did everything together.

  11. Socorro said on November 30, 2013 at 10:08 pm ... #

    My husband died of cancer for almost 4 mos. now.. Until recently, I feel angry at just about anything. I can’t say if it is still part of the grieving process because I did not feel it soon after he died. Along with the anger is the need to be by myself although ‘am feeling lonely already. i’ve turned to praying the Rosary everyday, but, it doesn’t erase the anger very long.. I don’t know what to do and how to overcome this.. Even seeing his family makes me more angry, when i thought it can help minimize my grief.

  12. irene said on December 1, 2013 at 6:05 pm ... #

    I lost my 25 year old son 13 months ago. Prolonged drug use damaged his heart. He was finally clean but suffered a heart attack and coma for 7 days. One month ago, I lost my only other son the age of 28 to an auto accident. I am more than just angry. Im mad as hell!!
    Tell me how Im supposed to cope with it all. Im not only mad at my sons, but god, myself and far too many others to mention. Im lucky enough to have a great and supportive husband but feel Im turning my anger on his as well simply because hes closest to me regularly. I dont want to hurt others but think about hurting myself. My kids were my world and now my heart is shatered. I try to volunteer to keep busy but am finding that Id rather withdrawl and be by myself..

  13. Michele said on December 13, 2013 at 7:15 pm ... #

    After losing my spouse in a sudden death due to head trauma, I have gone back and forth with a lot of emotions. From not eating, to eating 1 meal a day, which I still do. To over exercising, compulsive cleaning, depression and wanting to be alone all the time. Everyday is a new way of grief for me. The anger Ive been feeling is overwhelming, Im exhausted feeling like I am carrying my body. This wave of negativity I show is draining. Last night I forgave my spouse for dying on me. He had no control over it but I forgave him for leaving me. Then I forgave God for taking him from me and realized it wasn’t a personal attack on me. Then I forgave myself for not being able to save him with CPR, even though he was already gone. This morning I felt a bit different, even though I didn’t think I was angry at him or God but I guess saying it out loud in detail made a difference. I am only posting this because maybe it will help someone. I am still missing him, but not carrying the anger or the scowl on my face today…thats a start.

  14. คาสิโน said on May 14, 2014 at 6:10 pm ... #

    Very good blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers?

    I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or
    go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally overwhelmed ..
    Any suggestions? Appreciate it!

  15. jen said on September 28, 2014 at 10:55 pm ... #

    I lost my husband two years ago he was killed. There’s no Justicefor the people that did this to him are free. my husband what are kids lost their father..im so angry.. I have up and down days I stay to myself tried to hide from the world.. don’t know how to deal with him never coming back..I try moving on but, I find myself angry at anyone whos with me to the point I want them to leave me.. So I can be alone…

  16. Michele said on November 30, 2014 at 2:43 pm ... #

    I am coming up on the 2nd anniversary of my 27 year old son’s death on December 23rd. I am just now in the “angry” stage of grieving. I am angry all the time…not at my son but everyone and everything else. My husband is taking the brunt of it. I have decided I just don’t like him and he irritates me to no end. We have been married for 22 years and so many times I wish he would just leave. Is this normal behavior for a grieving mother? I have increased anti-d medication but just can’t seem to get out of this all-encompasing anger. And it has been two years since my boy’s death. Has anyone else ever experienced this delayed grief symptom?

  17. peter said on December 2, 2014 at 2:51 pm ... #

    my parents died there were so loving and kind my brother died and yes iam anngry because he tu was good person then i see evilpeople who are bad and use people and they dont suffer of anything why why if your heart is good you lose but if you are bad you live better why why why

  18. tisa said on December 11, 2014 at 9:07 pm ... #

    My 17 yr old son lost his stepdad a year ago to cancer. They were very close. He was my son’s true father figure. We were divorced but were best friends. We of course lived apart. Since he died he’s acted very distant and won’t look at me, talk to me or do anything with me. It’s like he hates me everyday. I don’t know what to do. I’ve thought about taking him to a counselor but afraid he won’t go. Please tell me what you think I should do. Thank you.

  19. Kristine said on February 16, 2015 at 2:03 am ... #

    I lost my sister- who at one pt in my life, had been like a mom to me
    In June 2013. My ex husband & father of my 19 yr old dtr & 12 yr old
    Son- died May 2014. Now my mother is dying an awful death from
    Parkinsons- Feb 2015. Im falling apart- Im angry- starting fights w
    With strangers rock climbing without supports. Im not sure if I care
    If I live or die. My idiot BF says my mom dying isnt about me- like Im
    Selfish having som probs over my mom dying. Yes- I kno she is going
    Thru it- but so am I. Becuz I tend to B a caretaker kind of person-
    When Im ” normal ” I find the ppl I hav around me are no comfort at
    All- they still just wanna talk about themselves. Im just so alone-
    I cant completely nut up tho cuz my now 13 yr old son is still home
    & needs me. Im so sad about so many things related to these deaths
    & I got nobody to talk to.

  20. Daki said on March 8, 2015 at 11:47 pm ... #

    I lost my best friend to breast cancer 6 months. We were besties for 19 years. The anger and the hatred that I feel towards humanity in the last 6 months has been destroying my life slowly but surely. There is so much garbage of humans out there but God decided to take her, such a loving, caring, giving person. I feel so alone in this dark, mouldy, smelly hole. People are pissing me of with they comments about grieving and processing. I have a full time job and I’m greatly struggling to finish my tasks daily. I know that life goes on as people would say but maybe yours not mine..I feel like a lost soul in this grieving matrix program (endless)..I’m sorry for all your losses in previous comments

  21. jennifer.wendol@facebook.com said on March 30, 2015 at 11:12 pm ... #

    I’m so sorry for u all,I’m in such a self depression ,I’m soooooo angry ,never laugh no More, when I have to it’s not real. Lost my only brother Labor Day weekend 2014, I’m in sooo much pain it turns into anger to my loved ones , that only naked it worse, I feel horrible, I just can’t nor am I ready to let go , I just can’t ! But u know its killing me, I would just love and wish ang pray all the time to just hug my brother and tell him I love him sooo much, I do believe in god , but I’m Just mad at the word, I realized I have to see someone and talk to who is helpful ang educated in this horrible matter , I love my family and friends but I Just find or express all the pain ,being upset and sad , I can deal with but thr overwhelming anger is ruining my family , I keep praying I will let Go one day . I’m thought I was reedy , well I’m definitely,love you Renne

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