Anger and Grief

By Jon Terrell, M.A.

Anger is Llke a rocket

Grief has two close companions: anger and fear. When we experience any of these emotions, the others are nearby but often suppressed because they are uncomfortable or unacceptable to us.

Grief is a natural response to loss.

Anger is a natural response to the unfairness of our loss, notably when a clear person or object caused it.

Anger lashes out very powerfully, roaring like the missile in this illustration, while fear makes us want to run away, be small, and hide. 

This article will focus on anger and grief, leaving fear for another page.

We often think that grief, anger, and fear are negative emotions, to be avoided, suppress and denied. And for good reasons! Growing up, we hear many words that encourage us to deny our feelings and suppress them. We're told, for example:

  • Don't be sad
  • Put on a happy face
  • Don't be angry
  • How dare you be mad at me!
  • Don't be a scaredy cat
  • Be Brave!

Yet both anger and grief are essential to our survival and extremely valuable. We can learn to accept each of them and transform them into their true golden purpose.

Read on to learn more about the relationship between anger and grief and what these emotions can offer us as we own them.

Anger And Grief I


Anger is never far from grief.

Anger is a big emotion, with lots of energy, while grief is heavy and steals our power. Anger can be a good thing, for it can rescue us when we are overwhelmed by grief, drowning in our loss, and it feels like we are stuck forever in our pain.

By focusing on the anger that is beneath our grief feelings, we can often find relief. It can be very tiring as it calls us to go deeper inside ourselves for healing.

At our Grief and Loss and Difficult Emotions Retreats, participants often start with grief and then, with the support of a loving community, soon find themselves focusing on their suppressed anger related to their suffering.

(The community doesn't look for anger but instead loves the one who is the focus at that time. The deep love of the community helps reveal all the suppressed feelings holding grief in place, allowing more profound healing to take place.)

Most of us have pent up a lot of anger that we have not wanted to face. Anger is a very big, powerful feeling, and we often hold it back because it feels so large that we might lose control.

Anger is the extrovert of our feelings. It points the finger at its target. It says, "You!" See below for more information on how anger works and feels.

Grief is more introverted and internally focused. "I hurt." It doesn't have much energy at all and feels very heavy. Grief is tiring! 

We often see the interplay of grief and anger at our retreats.

When a participant arrives filled with grief over a significant loss, they are usually exhausted and close to tears all the time. Their grief feels endless.

Yet, as we focus on their grief, we often find an opening into another energy, another feeling. They are sad, yes, but also upset at others, such as the medical profession, friends, or even themselves.

This irritation/outrage/anger has a lot of energy and that power can lead participants right out of their sadness. This anger makes it easier to be with their grief so they are less overwhelmed by it, and more capable of self caring and healing.

This is not to say that the anger is justified or right, but acknowledging and giving space to it helps people feel better, lighter, and more energized. It's a valuable step towards healing.

Once the feeling is conscious, it can evolve more quickly from a projection onto others into a sense of one's own power and dignity. Instead of being a victim of circumstances or someone else, we step into owning our power to heal.

When our sorrow continues endlessly, it may be because we are unaware of our anger. Some authorities name grief that goes on for a long time Complicated Grief, yet for me what complicates grief is another unacknowledged emotion, especially anger.

The Faces Of Anger

angry man2 safe

I'm right, and you are wrong. Anger divides everything in two. It separates and divides. Good and bad.

It's the finger pointer: You're the problem, you're wrong, it's your fault.

It's a dictator or bully: This is the way it is. I'm the only one that can solve this problem. Do it my way. 

Anger manipulates, orders, and dictates. And sometimes, it's an out-of-control wildfire. Everyone is in trouble when anger turns to rage, so watch out.

These past few years, we have seen more and more headlines of out-of-control angry behavior:

-Young adults with guns kill innocent children, teens, and adults.

-Crazy driving incidents where one person attacks another.

-Adults rioting and attacking the Capitol.

-Wars where bullies/dictators seem to get their way.

Anger lashes out. It can be so quick that we say something or do something we regret later. Then, we may feel grief or shame.

Humans seem to easily give up their power and follow dictators who promise to conquer our enemies and solve all our problems. We can see this happening even in Europe and here in the USA. And it is all part of raw anger's power.


Working With Anger And Grief

We all have unacknowledged anger. 

Sometimes, it is so suppressed that we hardly notice it, except when someone says or does something to trigger us. 

Anger, grief, and fear are essential to our survival and to live our lives fully.

A baby naturally grieves when separated from their mother.

A baby experiences fear when he/she hears a loud noise or falls.

When someone goes "boo!" a child naturally experiences fear.

When we became a toddler, we started to develop a sense of self separate from others, and we learn about anger. 

Unfortunately, many of us got stuck at these early stages, and still have work to do to fully claim our power and our lives. Many of us become victims because we haven't owned our natural anger power. We find bullies again and again that victimize us.

As we learn that it is okay to have anger, that it is essential to our survival, everything changes.

When we own our anger, it goes through an amazing transformation. Instead of a bully, anger becomes our passion, our aliveness, our gateway to freedom and fulfillment.

We feel alive and present and powerful.

It is the force that creates healthy boundaries. It gives us back our energy (It can be very tiring to hold our feelings back!)

Anger, as a positive force, is assertiveness, which helps us be direct and straightforward. It grounds us and brings us to the present moment, fully alive and present.

People often work through years of suppressed anger at our retreats in just a few minutes. People come back to life, releasing blaming others and shame for having anger and being a victim. We have excellent tools to help people do this safely and healthily.

Anger is the extrovert and the biggest and scariest of our emotions. To see it transform from a bully to a healer is something I always love to see at our retreats. Once someone is freed of the anger entanged in their grief, their grief is able to transform as well, making the journey of emotional pain and sorry back towards the present moment.

We gradually learn to honor and hold the love we had lost that we have been grieving. That love is a precious gift that is eternal. We will always feel the loss but at the same time we will find that the love is not lost, but can live inside of us. 

Go here to read my article, How To Heal Anger.

And this one, How To Deal With Anger

Learn more about emotions here.

Find out more about our Grief and Difficult Emotions Retreat

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