Eventually denial gives way to another stage. Typically, that is anger. I actually went back and forth between denial and anger quite often. It seemed like a switch that some twisted and crazy mad scientist found great delight in turning off and on. On any given day, at any given time, I could go from denial, which allowed me to have hope, to anger that could drive a sane person mad. The key wasn’t in controlling the anger or making it go away, because it wasn’t going to, but to find healthy outlets for it.
There is not a person on this planet that hasn’t gotten angry about something or someone at some point in their life. So it is only natural that, without question, in every situation in my life when I experienced loss I got angry at some point along the way while I grieved. If you can find someone that has experienced loss of any kind and hasn’t gotten angry, please give them my number because I want their secret.
Every time I have experienced loss I have gone through many emotions and have hit many of the stages of the grieving process. In fact, when my marriage, ended I slammed into the different stages of grief more times than I care to remember. Eventually though, I got angry; angry at my wife; furious at the former friend that played a significant role in it all; upset with those whose actions didn’t match their words to me; angry at God; just plain angry at anyone and everyone. I was outraged and humiliated. I felt betrayed. I felt unwanted and unloved by the one person that I so badly wanted it from and it made me angry. It was a dark place to be and I hated it.
If I had allowed that anger to consume me I hate to think where I might be today. What I may have done. Initially I didn’t know what to do with my anger. Like many of the other emotions that come with loss, I felt that something was wrong with me and didn’t know exactly how I was going to overcome it and move forward.
The most troubling part of this stage is that once I got angry I stayed there – for a really long time. That didn’t help my healing process at all. The angrier I got the more bitter I became. The bitterer I became, the more the anger seemed to build within me. It was a very unhealthy downward spiral. I was extremely unhappy and probably not very pleasant to be around. This only fueled the darkness.
When you get that angry about something, the thoughts one has can be very scary. Once the downward spiral begins it only increases in speed and is hard to pull out of if you aren’t doing something to deal with the pain. It can be overwhelming and leave you feeling as if there is no hope and that you will never find happiness again, let alone be able to enjoy even the simplest things in life.
Know this though. If you have ever experienced that type of anger or are even experiencing it at this moment, you need to know that you are OK. In fact, you’re normal. Sometimes, even to this day, the feeling of anger is something that I experience more often than I care to but here’s the interesting thing about anger. It’s OK. It is needed in order to heal. It’s a natural emotion, one that shouldn’t be denied or suppressed. I thought God would be upset with me for being so angry at everyone and everything, including Him. Here’s the thing though, God himself is described as “slow to anger” – not “never angry.” He isn’t going to condemn me or you or anyone else for that matter, for something that is natural to feel, something that we all needed to experience in order to heal and get past our grief.
So how do you deal with that anger? Yes, that is the million dollar question isn’t it? I’m going to say something that initially will seem counterintuitive – Embrace it! That’s right, embrace your anger. Get to know it. Explore it. When you do that, you will be able to figure out what it is; what fuels it. Think about it this way. Every war that has ever been won was done so because the victor studied and really got to know the tactics and tendencies of their foes. Our anger is no different. We need to understand it in order to defeat it; to overcome the hold that it has on us.
Once you understand it or at least partially come to terms with it, you have to deal with it. The key to overcoming anger is to figure out constructive ways to deal with it. If you deal with your anger in destructive and careless ways it will end badly. You need to find an outlet for your anger that doesn’t harm yourself or anyone else in the process. There are ways to do that and as long as you understand there is no quick fix you will eventually be OK. Your anger most likely isn’t going to go away overnight. It will, however, if you are working through it, progressively get less frequent and intense as you move from day to day. Sometimes the best way to release it may be to go outside and scream at the top of your lungs. Go ahead and curse like a sailor while you’re at it. Let it out. If that doesn’t work, lie on your bed and beat your fists and kick your feet like a two-year-old having a tantrum when they don’t get what they want. Go for a run or to the kick boxing class at your gym. All of these expressions are safe and appropriate outlets to deal with and get past your anger.
I flailed on my bed on numerous occasions screaming and crying like a baby. I went on aggressive runs. I’d go out in the woods and take my aggression out on a branch with the ground. Sometimes I would just get in my car alone and drive with no particular destination and let it all out as I drove. The key in all of these situations was that I was allowing my feelings, that torment, the anger to play itself out. I did so in ways that were not harmful to myself or anyone else. It was how I embraced my anger. It’s how I got to know it, what triggered it, what would stoke it and eventually what calmed it.
You will be surprised that once you confront your anger and deal with it in appropriate and healthy ways you’ll begin to feel better. The days won’t seem quite as long and you may even find that smile again once in a while. The key is to not run and hide from this very painful emotion. It’s OK to feel this way. It’s not OK to allow yourself to stay that way indefinitely.
Be Great! Be Strong!
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