Anger, one of the five stages of grief first conceptualized by the renowned psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, is arguably one of the most difficult human emotions to deal with. Once you realize that you can't deny the loss of your loved one, you may start to feel anger or even rage. The anger stage of grief is a normal part of the grieving process.
Six Tips for Dealing With Grief and Anger
If you have difficulty managing your anger, know that you don't have to suffer endlessly. How long grief lasts is different for each person. Implementing specific strategies can help you successfully move through this challenging phase of the grieving process.
1. Allow Yourself to Feel Angry
When you feel angry over the loss of a loved one, it can be tempting to suppress your feelings by trying to put on a strong front or a happy face, especially if you feel like others around you are relying on you to keep it together. When you don't allow yourself to feel angry, you might find yourself blaming others, lashing out, or reacting in other unhealthy and counterproductive ways. Although these are all common reactions to anger, they are likely to make the anger phase of grief more challenging.
Accept what you feel and realize that anger is a normal reaction to grief. Let your feelings come naturally. If you don't feel angry yet, you might be in another stage of the grieving process, such as denial. However, according to grief expert David Kessler in an article for Grief.com, the more you allow yourself to feel anger (when you actually do feel angry), the more it will start to dissolve, and the sooner you'll begin to heal.
2. Cry It Out
Crying is not a sign of weakness. It is a very healthy and normal expression of anger. You can't force yourself to cry, of course, but don't feel like you have to hold your tears in, either. You might feel like you need to be strong for others, such as children or people who depend on you, but realize that you don't have to be a pillar and that it's okay to lean on others, too. It can be helpful to talk about your feelings of sadness with trusted friends or family members, and if the tears come naturally, try not to hold back. Tears are one of the most healing ways your body releases anger and stress, according to psychiatrist Judith Orloff.
3. Write an Angry Letter
Express your anger to your loved one in a grief letter. Clinical psychologist Monica A. Frank, Ph.D. points out that letter writing can be particularly helpful in the grieving process if you are someone who has difficulty acknowledging angry feelings. You can write a grief letter to let your loved one know how angry and sad you feel that they are no longer with you. No one needs to see the letter but you.
Find an activity you enjoy, such as running, walking, or biking. According to the Mayo Clinic, physical exercise is a helpful way to reduce feelings of stress that can lead to anger. Exercise also increases endorphins -- your body's natural feel-good chemicals.
Let yourself yell as loud as you need to, even if it's at the top of your lungs. In an article for Help Guide, psychologists Melinda Smith and Jeanne Segal say, "it's okay to yell at the heavens" during the grieving process. Just make sure you're screaming in a safe space, such as in your home or in your parked car.
6. Practice Relaxation and Self-Care Techniques
According to the American Psychological Association, unexpressed anger can lead to negative mental and physical effects, such as high blood pressure or depression. During the anger phase of the grief process, it's important to counter these effects by practicing mindful relaxation and self-care techniques, such as:
- Breathing Deeply - Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help you slow down and ease feelings of tension, according to the Harvard Business Review. Sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Place one hand on your belly and simply observe your breathing. Then try to slow down your breath. Inhale to a slow count of four and exhale to a slow count of four. Practice this or other breathing techniques for several minutes throughout the day.
- Yoga - Yoga stretches can be beneficial in learning how to cope with anger and releasing emotional blockages, according to Yoga Journal. It can also help your body relax by easing muscular tension. If you are unfamiliar with the practice and benefits of yoga, start with basic poses to introduce your body gently to the exercises.
- Explore Creative Outlets - One way of practicing self-care and working through the grieving process is to find a creative outlet for your emotions. This can be done by exploring a new hobby, such as creative writing or painting, that may help ease your mind and distract from negative thoughts while you are engaging in them.
How Long Does the Anger Stage of Grief Last?
It is often thought that the stages of grief last weeks or months. This is simply not true. When dealing with the anger stage of grief you will find:
- There is actually no timeline when it comes to the anger stage of grief or any stage of grief for that matter.
- You do not get through each specific stage for a certain allotted amount of time.
- You may not experience the five stages in chronological order.
- You may not even go through all the stages of grief. For example, you may not feel anger in your grief process.
- Often, people switch back and forth between the various five stages of grief.
You must keep in mind that everyone is different. Each individual will handle their grief and cope with their loss in their own unique way and in their own particular timeframe.
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What If You Are Stuck in the Anger Stage of Grief?
There are people that can get stuck in the anger stage of grief. This can go on for years. You must willingly allow yourself to feel anger during grieving. Anger is necessary for the healing process, even if it feels wrong. If you are stuck in the anger stage of grief, you may notice:
- A feeling of extreme irritability.
- Continued obsession about what happened and why... like you're stuck in an emotional rewind.
- A feeling of growing anxiety and a fear of loss.
- Behavioral overreaction.
- That you may have possible addictive or self-harming behaviors.
- You may feel an emotional numbness or low-grade depression.
What Should You Do?
Once you embrace your anger, it will gradually lessen and eventually disappear. A few things you can do if you're stuck in the anger stage of grief are:
- First, allow yourself to be angry. Don't internalize it. Explore it.
- Share your feelings and reasons why you're angry with those close to you.
- Do whatever is personally necessary to get closure.
- Make a move to face what you may be avoiding, such as going through your loved one's personal belongings or visiting the gravesite.
- Notice and change bad behavioral patterns. For example, if you are drinking excessively, overeating, or self-medicating.
- If it appears you are stuck in the anger stage of grief, you may want to join a support group, find a therapist, or explore grief counseling.
Resources for the Grieving Process
There are many resources out there geared toward helping you through the grieving process by coping with your emotions and sharing stories with others that are going through the same process. Some resources include:
When to Get Help
It's important to give yourself time to go through the anger phase of the grieving process. If you experience extreme feelings of anger or feel like you can't control yourself, seek immediate assistance from a mental health professional.
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How do I get out of the anger stage of grief? ›
Coping With the Anger Stage of Grief
May shares some strategies that can help you cope with the anger stage of grief: Allow yourself to feel the loss: Find an emotionally safe place, either with a supportive friend or by yourself, and allow yourself to feel, cry, and think about the loss.
A common cause of anger when it comes to grief is the individual's reluctance to accept that they have to continue life without their loved one. You can also get to the root of your anger by exploring other difficult emotions; these include sadness and fear.Which stage of grief is the hardest? ›
Depression is usually the longest and most difficult stage of grief.How long does anger stage last? ›
The grieving person may avoid others or avoid talking about the loss. Anger - The next stage can last for days, weeks, or months.What are the 5 stages of grief stuck in anger? ›
Persistent, traumatic grief can cause us to cycle (sometimes quickly) through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.Can you get stuck in a stage of grief? ›
This “emotional rewind” is when you get yourself stuck in the time before or of the loss. Sorrow over a loss is a completely normal part of any grieving process, but being “stuck” or refusing to move forward in life with acceptance of this loss can indicate inhibited or incomplete grieving.Can grief cause outbursts of anger? ›
Remember, anger is a natural part of grief. Suppressing or swallowing feelings delays coping and moving forward. Voicing your feelings, expressing anger and any other emotions, is empowering, strengthening, and helps us cope.Can grief change your personality? ›
Personality changes like being more irritable, less patient, or no longer having the tolerance for other people's “small” problems. Forgetfulness, trouble concentrating and focusing. Becoming more isolated, either by choice or circumstances. Feeling like an outcast.Why am I angry at my dad for dying? ›
You could be angry that life changed for you when that person died. Or maybe you feel angry with your friends because they still have their loved one around, and it feels unfair that you don't. It's possible that you're angry with your God/the universe or even yourself for not being able to stop this person dying.What is the hardest family member to lose? ›
Losing A Partner May Be Hardest to Take
Indeed, the psychological distress scores of people who lost children more than doubled from 1.3 before the loss to 3.5 the year the child died. A score of 1 or 2 is normal for people who aren't under stress.
What should you not do to a grieving person? ›
- Don't fall into the fix-it trap. ...
- Don't give solutions or advise people. ...
- Don't tell people that they're “strong” ...
- Don't try to make sense of it. ...
- Don't try to one-up their pain. ...
- Don't use “loved one” when referring to the person who's died.
- The death of a husband or wife is well recognized as an emotionally devastating event, being ranked on life event scales as the most stressful of all possible losses. ...
- There are two distinct aspects to marital partnerships.
Anger is also a common response to events that seem unfair or in which you have been made a victim. Research shows that anger can be especially common if you have been betrayed by others. This may be most often seen in cases of trauma that involve exploitation or violence.What are the 3 signs of anger? ›
The physical signs and symptoms of anger include: increased blood pressure. increased heart rate. tingling sensation.
Characteristics of the Bargaining Stage of Grief
Offering to be a better person, to help others, or to make donations as a way of dealing with and managing the pain of the loss. Negotiating with fate, a higher power, God, or the universe. Wishing for miracles to negate the loss.
Mourning and the 5 Stages of Grief. The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There's no order to them and they serve as a reference instead of a guide on how to grieve. Mourning is an intimate and unique experience for each of us.Which stage of grief is the shortest? ›
Bargaining is usually the third stage in grieving, and it is often the shortest. During this time, a person may try to find meaning in the loss and reach out to others to discuss it.What does bargaining mean in grief? ›
The bargaining stage of grief is a stage in which you may try to negotiate with yourself or with a higher power to try to undo the loss, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).What is dysfunctional grief? ›
Abstract. Dysfunctional grieving represents a failure to follow the predictable course of normal grieving to resolution (Lindemann, 1944). When the process deviates from the norm, the individual becomes overwhelmed and resorts to maladaptive coping.Is it possible to not go through the five stages of grief? ›
Not everyone goes through the stages of grief in a linear way. You may have ups and downs and go from one stage to another, then circle back. Additionally, not everyone will experience all stages of grief, and you may not go through them in order.
How long until grief becomes complicated? ›
Complicated grief may be considered when the intensity of grief has not decreased in the months after your loved one's death. Some mental health professionals diagnose complicated grief when grieving continues to be intense, persistent and debilitating beyond 12 months.What happens when angry starts crying? ›
Lots of people cry when they feel frustrated, angry, or embarrassed. When you get mad, your body produces a flood of hormones that stimulate strong reactions in your body — everything from a racing heart to sweaty palms to short-term memory loss. In response to the elevated stress level, you may cry.Does grief rewire your brain? ›
Grief can reinforce brain wiring that effectively locks the brain in a permanent stress response, Shulman said. To promote healthy rewiring, people need to strengthen the parts of the brain that can regulate that response.Does grief change your face? ›
“The sympathetic nervous system,” Anolik adds, "triggers the so-called 'fight-or-flight' response, which can lead to dull, dry skin without the same resilience or elasticity, more visible lines, pink blotches, possibly even sagging if the time period of grief is extended." Lack of sleep may also reduce your skin's ...What grief does to your brain? ›
Your brain is on overload with thoughts of grief, sadness, loneliness and many other feelings. Grief Brain affects your memory, concentration, and cognition. Your brain is focused on the feelings and symptoms of grief which leaves little room for your everyday tasks. and recognize it as a step towards healing.What is the hardest age to lose a parent? ›
The scariest time, for those dreading the loss of a parent, starts in the mid-forties. Among people between the ages of 35 and 44, only one-third of them (34%) have experienced the death of one or both parents. For people between 45 and 54, though, closer to two-thirds have (63%).Why does death bring out worst in family? ›
Even though we're all certain to die one day, most people can leave the planning to the last minute, or not at all. This failure to plan is one of the most common reasons some families fall apart when a loved one dies. A combination of heightened emotions, financial strain, and grief causes estrangement in families.Can I have PTSD from my dad dying? ›
They contribute to our sense of identity and have the power to transform us, for good or bad. Because of this, the death of a loved one can create numerous psychological issues, including PTSD, particularly if the loss was tragic and unexpected.Who suffers most broken family? ›
Hazardous relationships involve all family members and the possibility of a broken home becomes greater. 1. To the children: Children are the ones who suffer most of broken family.What is the greatest grief of life? ›
According to Kisa Gotami, the greatest grief of life is the death of loved ones and one's inability to stop them from dying. So, instead of lamenting on it, the wise shouldn't grieve. Grief will only increase the pain and disturb the peace of mind of a person.
What is the average age to lose a parent? ›
In our final data, 7% of children had lost a parent, 2% a mother and 5% a father, when they were 23 or younger ( Table 1 ). The average age of experiencing parental death was approximately 15 years.How often should you check on someone who is grieving? ›
Your friend or relative may need you even more after the first few weeks and months, when other people may stop calling. Check in every now and then just to say hello (you may find it helpful to put reminders on your calendar). Most bereaved people find it difficult to reach out and need others to take the initiative.Why do people avoid you when you're grieving? ›
People avoid grievers because they are misinformed and afraid. Grievers avoid others because they are afraid and then isolate. Is anybody talking to anyone else, and if so, are they talking about anything important to the griever? Isolation and grief are not helpful for the griever.Should you grieve alone? ›
Solitude in grief is both necessary and healing. If you are someone who avoids solitude, however, through constant distraction, busyness, or attachment to others, you may be avoiding your normal, necessary pain.How do you know if someone who passed away is with you? ›
- Dream Visitations. One of the most commonly described signs from the other side is a visitation from a departed loved one in the form of a dream. ...
- Familiar Sensations or Smells. ...
- Animal Messengers. ...
- Pennies and Dimes. ...
- Lost and Found Objects. ...
- Electrical Disturbances.
While deaths from broken heart syndrome are exceptionally rare, cardiac damage from grief can cause long-term damage, especially if you're already at risk for cardiovascular events.How long do spouses live after one dies? ›
This discovery held true for both men and women. A previous study from 2008 drew a similar conclusion, finding that surviving spouses had up to a 90% chance of dying within the first three months following the death of their spouse.What are the 5 stages of rage? ›
The anger arousal cycle
xi The arousal cycle of anger has five phases: trigger, escalation, crisis, recovery and depression. Understanding the cycle helps us to understand our own reactions and those of others.
When one is pathologically angry due to chronic dissociation or repression of existential or appropriate anger, the threshold for anger is gradually diminished. Almost anything can then evoke irritability, annoyance, anger, or even rage—all inappropriate overreactions to the current circumstance.What emotion is behind anger? ›
Emotions that can Trigger
Because anger is easier to feel, it can distract you from experiencing and healing the pain you feel inside. Among the most triggering primary emotions is frustration. Frustration is often experienced when you are feeling helpless or out of control.
What mental illness causes anger outbursts? ›
Intermittent explosive disorder involves repeated, sudden episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts in which you react grossly out of proportion to the situation.What are the 3 C's of grief? ›
Practice the three C's
As you build a plan, consider the “three Cs”: choose, connect, communicate. Choose: Choose what's best for you. Even during dark bouts of grief, you still possess the dignity of choice.
- Acknowledge your pain.
- Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions.
- Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you.
- Seek out face-to-face support from people who care about you.
- Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically.
Confusion, irritability, anxiety, and the inability to concentrate. Changes in metabolism leading to depression and even paranoia. “Searching behavior”—looking for their loved one in an almost subconscious way, even though they know their loved one has died.What is exaggerated grief reaction? ›
10. Exaggerated grief. Exaggerated grief is the exaggeration of the normal grief process, either through actions, words, or mental health. Exaggerated grief may include major psychiatric disorders that develop following a loss such a phobias as a result of hyper-grieving thoughts, actions, words, etc.Which emotion is triggered by grief? ›
Your emotions or feelings from grief may include shock, numbness, sadness, denial, despair, and/or anger. You might experience anxiety or depression. You can also feel guilty, relieved, or helpless.Can grief make you bitter? ›
Chronic stress also is common during acute grief and can lead to a variety of physical and emotional issues, such as depression, trouble sleeping, feelings of anger and bitterness, anxiety, loss of appetite, and general aches and pains.What is misdirected anger in grief? ›
“Misdirected anger is an unconscious defense mechanism used to display anger and aggression toward individuals who are not involved in the stressors that are causing the anger. It usually occurs because the individual has poor coping skills and/or poor impulse control.”What does intense grief do to your body? ›
Grief has both significant and quantifiable mental and physical effects on the body. In addition to psychological symptoms of depression and anxiety, grief can cause sleep problems, chest pain, and gastrointestinal issues. In some cases, grief can increase the risk of heart attack and suicide.What is the peak of grief? ›
Her research showed that for most people, symptoms of grief peaked in the six months after the death.
How long is too long to grieve? ›
There is no timeline for how long grief lasts, or how you should feel after a particular time. After 12 months it may still feel as if everything happened yesterday, or it may feel like it all happened a lifetime ago. These are some of the feelings you might have when you are coping with grief longer-term.What is silent grief? ›
Silent grief, also known as disenfranchised grief, occurs when individuals feel they need to carry their pain alone and hide their emotions from the people around them. It usually occurs when a person feels others won't be receptive to their pain.What part of the body holds grief? ›
Your heart literally aches. A memory comes up that causes your stomach to clench or a chill to run down your spine. Some nights, your mind races, and your heart races along with it, your body so electrified with energy that you can barely sleep. Other nights, you're so tired that you fall asleep right away.Where is grief stored in the body? ›
Emotional information is stored through “packages” in our organs, tissues, skin, and muscles. These “packages” allow the emotional information to stay in our body parts until we can “release” it. Negative emotions in particular have a long-lasting effect on the body.Why does grief drain your energy? ›
There are physical reasons that cause fatigue when you are grieving. The death sets off a strong stress response in your body which increases steroid production. That, coupled with the magnified feelings of grief, can take a toll on your central nervous system.Does grief drain energy? ›
It is very common to feel tired, or exhausted, when you are grieving. There are many reasons why you may feel tired, especially if you were caring for the person who died. Strong emotions along with all the practical things you may have needed to do after they died, can also leave you feeling exhausted.