So far we have tackled two out of the five stages of grief. Within the first two stages of the grieving process, denial and bargaining, there is little need to find an outlet. Both denial and bargaining do not require a lot of emotion, therefore these two stages might be easier to overlook in your process of grief. Now we are moving into stages that require and demand all your emotional attention.
The third stage in the grieving process is anger. It is hard to outrun your thoughts and emotions of anger. Not only are you aware you have entered into this stage, but a good bet is that everyone else around is aware as well. Anger is an emotional response as a result of a wrongdoing. Anger is that emotion that burns up within the deep parts of you. The one thing you can count on with anger is that it will find a way to release itself.
There are two responses in dealing with anger.
The first response is turning inward and using anger against yourself. One classic phrase of inward anger is, “How could I have been so stupid?” When someone has hurt us, we can blame ourselves instead of the one who caused the hurt. Another way inward anger masks itself is by taking on too much responsibility for the wound. This response is most often chosen when the wounder does not take ownership of the wounds they inflicted.
I experienced inward anger many times after my father left. I often spent hours thinking through what I could have done differently to make him stay. I went through a gamut of thoughts: if I had been smarter, spent more time with him, talked with him more, etc. then he would not have chosen to leave. My father was not around to work through the conflict with me, nor was he claiming any of the blame for his choices. We often think that there has to be some explanation for what happened. If the wounder is not willing to take that ownership, we may take it on for them. The fact remains that my father chose to leave. This was not my fault.
Inward anger can be experienced silently and subtly. Inward anger can manifest itself in our beliefs about ourselves. Inward anger can lead to low self-esteem, dismissal of encouragement and compliments, always taking on too much responsibility for conflict, always thinking you are the problem in every scenario, harming yourself, and believing you are not or will never be enough.
Outward anger is hard to find a right outlet for. Outward anger can be hard to shake and is the hardest emotion to sit in. More often then not, the wrong people experience the wrath of our anger. Outward anger can be described as an unleashed beast. I am sure you have experienced being on the receiving end of anger so you know what I mean.
This is a hard stage to experience. I want to encourage you to watch how you respond in your grief. Ask yourself the questions:
- How often do I blame myself?
- How much responsibility do I take on in conflict?
- What do I do when I get angry?
For those of you reading this who are saying, “but I don’t struggle with anger,” tomorrow we will look at what pure grief and sadness look like.
How do you struggle with inward or outward anger?