One afternoon, I pushed the button to replay my phone messages and was shocked to hear a young angry voice say, “Shame on you! How can you call yourself a Christian woman and do what you are doing! You should be ashamed at yourself.” I wondered what I had been doing that earned these angry, slanderous words. As he proceeded, I found out. He said, “You talked my mom into getting a divorce. How could you? I’m not going to allow you to put my dad down! I won’t stand for it.”
I thought to myself, that’s not fair or right. I could hardly stand it that he had said such things to me. I had been a friend to his mother and helped her get counseling because she was in an emotionally abusive situation. Then I got angry too!
How could he say those hurtful things to me? I was about to give him a piece of my mind and set him right on a few things. Thanks to God, the young man had given me a false phone number because suddenly I remembered some of my own advice in my caregiving handbook. One of the emotional responses to grief is anger. This young man was grieving the breakup of his parent’s marriage. He needed someone to blame, someone to suffer with him.
Anger is a natural part of the grief process. Inevitably the grieving person will go through a stage of being very critical. He or she is often angry at God, at the loved one who has died, at doctors and medical staff, at a boss or others. The hostile person is really saying, “They can’t do this to me! Why did this happen to me? I’m scared.”
We need to blame someone for the horrible tragedy. We sometimes get angry with the person who has died for not taking appropriate health or safety precautions, for abandoning us, or causing us immediate hardship.
Expect the grieving person to be angry. The expression of this anger may be irrational and you will not be able to logically resolve it. Again, one of the most helpful things you can do is to allow the person to express the anger. You might respond, “When (name event), it made you very angry because (name reason).”
You might also suggest a way to vent the anger such as: using a punching bag, writing an angry letter (not to be sent), exercising, yelling at a pillow or journaling feelings.
When we express openly our anger at the awful situation, we are dealing with anger in an appropriate way. I recommend screaming, beating a pillow against the bed, and allowing some space. I have beaten plenty of pillows and it works. It is amazing what relief it can bring, at least for a little while, until another “fix” is needed.
Photo credit: Miloš Marković