I’m so angry I could scream!
Have you ever felt intense anger, that you could relate?
I’ve written about an array of emotions but the one I’ve left out is anger. Maybe it’s because I don’t see myself as an angry person. Maybe, it’s because anger has such a negative stigma attached to it. Or, maybe I just don’t want to admit I’m prone to bouts of anger.
Where does anger come from?
The root of most anger is fear, pain and frustration, and who readily admits they feel any of these? Yet, we feel ALL these things when we are facing a life challenge. Feeling helpless and powerless is another cause of anger. Anyone who has experienced some form of grief has at one time or another felt as though matters were beyond their control, i.e. Powerless.
Why do we hide our anger?
Many of our behaviors are learned from childhood. Many of us (and I’m guilty of doing this as a parent) have at one point or another during our childhood been told, “there’s no reason to be angry.” Although expressed with good intention to diffuse a situation, the message this sends is that anger is not a valid emotion. And what happens when we bottle our emotions? Eventually we explode!
In my quest for finding peace and happiness in my life I purposefully focus on the positive. Call me a Pollyanna, but I’m a glass is hall full kind of gal. Which is why I suppose I’ve been hesitant to write about the anger I experienced after Larry died.
Yet, in order to really heal, you must face ALL your emotions, not just the pleasant ones, and this includes anger.
Feeling no emotion, including anger
For a while after Larry died, I was in so much pain and so sad I cried all the time. When I didn’t cry, I was numb. I welcomed the detachment from the sadness as a brief reprieve. In my very early stage of grief there were no emotions to fill the void of sadness and I simply existed in an impassive state. There was no joy, happiness, hope or even anger, I moved about as though I was in a trance when I wasn’t crying.
I listened to others talk about their anger at group therapy and I would think to myself, I’m too sad to be angry.
Anger can be part of the healing process
Little by little, as I began to heal, emotions started to surface. I wrote about laughter a few weeks ago in the post, “It’s OK to Laugh,” and the guilt that accompanied it.
Slowly but surely, the wall I had built during my state of shock after Larry died, to block the intensity of my emotions, started to fall, one brick at a time.
I was naïve to think only the positive emotions would be resurrected. Along with laughter and hope came anger and disappointment.
I was angry each time I had to make a parenting decision without Larry. It wasn’t supposed to be this way! I would think to myself adding fuel the fire burning with anger.
My anger really came to a head about nine months after Larry died. Being married, like most couples, we shared a closet. The first few months after Larry died, I would stand in our closet looking at all his clothes as the tears rolled down my face. Occasionally, I would grab a T-shirt, smell it, hug it, refold it and put it back on a shelf.
For months I had wrestled with the inevitable, one day I will give away his clothes. Each time I had that thought I felt angry. I didn’t want to give away anything that belonged to Larry. But the thought loomed over me each time I got dressed and saw his clothes.
The anger had grown inside me to a point I had no control over it and one morning I walked in our closet and without any thought I started grabbing shirts and pants off their hangars and threw them on the ground. With the swipe of my arm all the T-shirts I had lovingly refolded were swept to the floor. Drawers were opened; underwear, socks, shorts, were all thrown to the floor. The whole time I was yelling and screaming at myself, Larry, his doctors and even God. In that moment I was angry at the whole forsaken world.
Thankfully my children were not home because I can only imagine for anyone watching it may have appeared that I lost my mind.
When I was done throwing all his clothes on the floor, I collapsed with them and then the exhaustion hit! Releasing months of pent up anger pretty much wore me out. As I surveyed the mess I had just made, a sense of peace came over me and I realized it was time. While there is no timetable in grief to let go of items, for me, it was time to pack up Larry’s clothes and give them to goodwill.
With the release of my anger came my ability to make a decision, i.e. Take back some control over my actions. Once my anger was released and I gave myself permission to give away his clothes, it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted.
Did my anger go away?
No, I still get bouts of anger, and it’s perfectly OK!
I’m human, I feel an array of emotions and one of them is anger. I’ve learned that the key to anger is not suppressing it, it’s finding a safe avenue to express your anger. Anger is good (you’re alive!), anger is healthy, it’s a valid emotion.
Think about it, if you’re sad, you cry. If you’re happy, you laugh. If you’re anxious, you utilize coping techniques to release the anxiety. Anger is no different than any of these emotions. It needs an outlet as well.
How do I channel my anger?
- Exercise, brisk walk/run
- Clean! I’ve tackled deep cleaning projects that I’ve put off and scrubbed the anger away!
- Journal, some of my deepest fears and helplessness (roots of anger) have been poured into my journals
- Find a support group, whether it’s a grief support group, or you need an anger management group, there are many options.
- Breathe, when we get angry our heart rate and pulse increase, practicing breathing techniques can help our bodies to regulate and give our minds a chance to understand the source of our anger.
Get to know your triggers
With the holidays approaching, anger tends to be at the forefront fighting for attention along-side sadness and disappointment. It can be very difficult watching the whole world celebrate a joyous season when someone you love is not here to celebrate with you.
The first time I had to put up the Christmas tree without Larry, who always strung the lights, I wanted to throw the whole thing in the garbage! Unfortunately, my anger got the best of me and I ended up yelling at my kids when they tried to help. Not my best parenting moment. After some tears and apologies, I started to realize that the holiday season can be a trigger for me.
How I get through the holidays
Knowing that the holidays can be a trigger for me I’ve learned over the years that the best thing I can do for myself is plan, plan and plan. If I leave everything to the last minute, I know I’ll feel overwhelmed. When I feel overwhelmed, I get angry. Knowing this about myself, I start planning for the holidays as soon as Halloween is over. I plan which weekend I will decorate. I plan the menu and start buying in bulk (I’ve already started) paper goods, drinks and non-perishable items. I start planning social gatherings and outings. I ask for Christmas lists way in advance (I already have Charlie’s, don’t have to ask that kid twice!).
As much as I plan, I know some things will go wrong. Like the day before Thanksgiving 2012 and the sewer pipes to my guest house backed up. Thank goodness for Roto Rooter! And thank goodness I had already done my grocery shopping because it took about 6 hours to clear and I had to wait at home the whole time! I wasn’t happy about the hefty bill I received but I was grateful it didn’t happen on Thanksgiving because the charge would have been double for a holiday, YIKES!
Knowing your triggers is half the battle, finding a safe avenue to release the anger is the other half.
I pray this holiday season brings peace and joy, but if some anger finds its way, you have the skills to cope.