How to Grieve When You’re Still Angry

Or hurt, disgusted, confused, maybe even scared.  People die.  The relationships they created go on past death to strengthen or haunt those left behind.

You will grieve the person that should have been there, and the one you had instead.

You’ll grieve what you didn’t get from them.

You’ll grieve for the other people they hurt, and maybe feel confused about the people who are missing someone you don’t really recognize.

If you had good memories too, you’ll probably be torn.  You may want to categorize the good times as lies, or manipulation.  It’s alright to enjoy good memories.  You don’t have to know all the motives behind the good times.  You’re not weak to accept that everyone wanted to be a fireman or an astronaut when they were little.  Nobody wanted to be an abuser, a cheater, a liar, a disappointment, an addict, nobody was born seeing only the negative.  Seeing a few positives is a way to salvage a little bit of the person the deceased wanted to be, when they were still young enough to hope.

There is no right way to feel.  Someone died and you still had negative emotions about them.  Even if you had logically realized you would never get closure from them or make changes to your relationship, your emotions may only catch up now.  So many clients over the years have been stunned by how death & funerals bring issues careening back with a bang.  Even if you had gained peace and forgiven the deceased, it’s normal to remember old hurts and disappointments like they were new.  Our brains can work like filing cabinets.  You open up the cabinet to file and new pain, it makes sense to file it with all the other painful memories.  It doesn’t mean your peace wasn’t real or your forgiveness wasn’t truly meant.  The file cabinet is open.  It will take some time to close it.

Think of grieving as the way you turn your sadness and loss into a part of your story you can understand and use later.  And for everyone who’s going to tell me that they hated that so-and-so, there wasn’t any loss there; you lost what you think you should have had.  Grief is not a logical process and what we’ve lost may just be our hope or illusions.  Doesn’t matter.   We’ve lost them and it hurts.  Now you sift through that hurt and putt the pieces together into a new pattern that helps you make sense of your own story.  The sifting is all about the questions you ask yourself and the other people who’ve known about your relationship with the deceased.  The questions don’t start out pretty. Don’t try and make them pretty.  If you had a negative experience with the person, bad things happened.  Understanding can’t come if you don’t ask the ugly questions. Why me?  Why did he hurt me?  Why weren’t you there?  Did you ever love me?  And you’ll need to acknowledge some rough emotions too.  I hate her.  I never forgave you and I wish you could hurt more.  Why did you ruin everything?  He always loved my sister better and I was so jealous I hated her.

Each of these questions and statements are OK.  They are normal parts of sifting through the pain you felt from the bad things that happened and the good that didn’t happen.  Write down the answers you come up with and accept your emotions.  You might know how to reject yourself if you’ve had some good examples of that.  You don’t have to do it anymore.  You can accept the good, bad, ugly, crazy and awesome about yourself.  None of your emotions define you, they’re a part of you.  No matter how angry or sad you are, that’s not ALL you are.  Think of each emotion, each answer to a tough question, as a piece of tile you’re making a mosaic out of.  Your story will be the whole picture you make.  You wouldn’t want every tile piece to be pearly white perfection.  No one wants to look at a boring picture.  You need dark spots and bright moments to tell a story.  Don’t try and edit your life into bland.

When you’ve accepted that negative feelings don’t make you a bad person, you can move on.  You can ask yourself the questions that really can define who you are.  What did I learn?  How am I stronger?  What will I pass on to someone else?  These are the questions that accept you have survived and you’re strong.  Not perfect.  Not saintly or martyred.  Strong.  You survived to tell your version of events and you can do that without feeling defensive or scared.


Picture: Jennanana Flickr photo stream

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