Dealing With the Anger Stage of Grief

Ashley Miller
Woman feeling grief

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. This is a normal part of the grieving process.

Six Tips for Dealing With Your Anger

If you have difficulty managing your anger, know that you don't have to suffer endlessly. 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 an anger letter. Clinical psychologist Monica A. Frank points out that an anger letter can be particularly helpful if you are someone who has difficulty acknowledging angry feelings. You can write an anger 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.

4. Exercise

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. They note that exercise also increases endorphins -- your body's natural feel-good chemicals.

5. Scream

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 American Institute of Stress. 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 technique for several minutes, several times a 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 of yoga, start with basic poses to introduce your body gently to the exercises.

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 the immediate assistance of a psychologist or a qualified grief counselor. The organization GriefLink maintains a searchable online database of experienced grief counselors around the world.

Dealing With the Anger Stage of Grief