Monday, March 10, 2008

Angry? No, I'm Not Angry

Anger is often one of the hardest emotions to deal with in the grieving process, especially when that anger is directed at the person who died. Every person who ever attended one of the grief support groups I facilitated found this the hardest emotion to talk openly about. They all said that even thinking it made them feel so guilty. “How can we be mad at someone for dying? It’s not like they did it on purpose.”

It is very normal to have this kind of anger, and if it is not expressed it can create havoc on a person’s emotional and physical well being.

I remember one woman who talked every week about her difficulty with making coffee in the mornings. She and her husband used to have coffee together every morning and now that he was gone, she just couldn’t bring herself to make the coffee. On the surface, this sounded like so many other stories of what grieving spouses could no longer do, but I sensed that there was something deeper that she was having difficulty facing. So I gently prodded her to think about how she felt about the fact that he was no longer there to share that special time. I asked if she could possibly be angry, and she was quick to say, “No.”

She also said that she was not angry that she was now solely responsible for the family, the house, the finances and the cars. Although she did say that she was disappointed that he did not make more of an effort to put some things in better order before he died. But angry? “No. I loved him. How could I be angry?”

This went on for several weeks, and I think others in the group suspected there was another layer to all of this, but they were patient, as was I.

Then one day she came to group and her whole demeanor was different. She stood straighter, had a smile, and was wearing makeup. After she sat down, she looked around the room then announced that she had finally made coffee that morning. When asked what the turning point was she said that she had a “come to Jesus” talk with her deceased husband during the night. “I told him everything,” she said. “Even how angry I am that he died and left me all alone.”

We all laughed, then hugged her.

After that, we didn’t see much of her. She came to group a few more times, but I think rounding that most difficult corner in her grief journey set her on a straighter path forward and she “outgrew” the need for a support group.

It’s amazing how that can work.

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