Anger is a cancer of the human soul that consumes love. Anger is natural first response in early grief, and anger can become a habit or a crutch, so anger should be your early primary focus in healing grief. The process I will outline here is applicable outside of grief and works whenever you have a build up of anger in your life.
The fires of anger cause the initial painful emotional response when we lose a loved one, and those fires and the resulting pain draw our attention from gathering the ingredients of the love we shared to distill into our grief. If we include anger in our memories, they will have a bitter taste and harsh feel that will eventually find it’s way into every corner of your life, every memory after loss.
Fortunately, anger is volatile and if we focus on it, anger can be distilled and condensed into discarded waste without losing significant parts of the primary essence of our lost loved one. However, the longer we allow anger to guide our grief, the more damage we do the the collection of love that we wish to distill and hold for our lifetime.
The first step is to identify the few or many things that are making you angry. Set up an anger page in your journal, or better yet grab a stack of 3”x5” cards in a specific colour, perhaps pink. When you feel anger, identify the source of it and write it down. One point of anger per card. Rate the anger from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest).
Identify the specific targets of your anger, and include anger at yourself where applicable. I say this because it is easy to become angry at yourself while grieving, a process that erodes your sense of self-worth and consumes self-love that is critical to refilling your soul with love.
It would be possible to do this exercise on a spreadsheet, as I did, but for this exercise you may prefer hard copy. When we distill a point of anger into waste that we will symbolically discard, bury or burn, we will tear the card up and keep the pieces in a resealable bag for a more formal disposal later when most or all of our anger is resolved.
As your stack of anger cards grows or shrinks, periodically add the currently unresolved anger ratings for a total anger score which you will track on a separate card, with a date for each entry. This anger score should be updated each time you add another anger card, or each time you tear one up. This will help you see whether your cumulative anger is growing or diminishing. You can also revise, either reduce or increase the 0-10 anger score on any card, simply date the change, with a note why and date and update the total anger score on the tracking card.
It would be idealistic and wrong of me to suggest that you will eliminate all anger from any loss of a loved one. More important is to understand whether your anger is diminishing (constructive) or increasing (destructive), and at what level of anger you feel better about your daily life. As lower anger allows you to laugh or smile more, you may be inspired to work on and resolve more of the anger that holds you back.
At least once per week, review the stack of anger cards and pick the ones you feel able to work on this week. Make some notes on each card, dated with actions you will take. Perhaps you need more information, note how you will get that information , who you will speak to. It’s natural in this process to pick the easy ones first, but you should ensure that you have at least one (or more) of the cards with the highest anger scores to work on.
The physical deck of anger cards also has great purpose if and when you decide to seek professional help in your grief, or in attending groups helping those grieving. What you seek from therapy is tools to resolve these points of anger. Taking your stack of anger tracking cards make this process easier to prioritize.
Because most of what makes you angry in grief cannot be changed, the eventual conclusion for most points will be that there is nothing more to be done to change these things that are making you angry. For these components of anger related to your grief, you will eventually need to work through this point enough to finally resolve to accept that nothing constructive can be done about this point and carrying this anger any longer than necessary will only hurt you more on your journey through life.
Most anger can be resolved to disappointment, which is anger without the destructive fires of cancer that consumes love. Disappointment is a benign scar on your soul left by anger that you have completely healed to acceptance, and we should welcome the change from anger to disappointment.
The stack of anger cards is something that helps you quantify your anger at each point in your grief. At some point, if you do the work on your anger, the stack will become insignificant in size and anger will no longer impede or threaten your healing process.
More on forgiveness later, but please understand that forgiveness is probably the most efficient anger reducer we have. We forgive to free ourselves of the anger, more than we forgive to free someone from responsibility. Your forgiveness in grief may reach as far as forgiving the Universe for its chaos that brings us random losses, or as specific as forgiving the person or persons who directly caused the death of a loved one. In the challenge of suicide, we must forgive the victim for choosing to cause their own death.
Be well, seek peace, extinguish anger so that you can rebuild love in your life and love for your life.