In his book Aftermath, Gary Roe writes:
Sadness and anger are the two predominant grief emotions. In suicide deaths, both tend to be deep and powerful. Someone special has been taken from us. We’re designed for relationships and wired for connection. We don’t do separation well. Our hearts scream that this kind of thing is not supposed to happen.
This truly is the case when we lose a loved one as the result of death by suicide.
Stages of Grief
Anger is considered a part of the grieving process, no matter the underlying cause of the death. (As will be discussed later in this article, the anger associated with the death of a loved one by suicide particularly can be intense.)
The stages of grief are:
The anger associated with the death of a loved one by suicide must be addressed and resolved before a person is able to reach a point of acceptance regarding the loss of that family member or friend.
Grieving and Anger
The Cleveland Clinic has devoted a considerable amount of time and effort to researching the stages of grief, including anger. The results of that effort can be helpful to a person processing the death of a loved one by suicide.
According to researchers at the Cleveland Clinic, anger is regarded as a perfectly natural response to a loss, including a death of a loved one by suicide. Anger can end up being directed ay a number of different sources, including those not connected in any real way to the death that is spurring the emotion.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a person might focus the anger on completely innocent bystanders. They cite a person standing in the checkout line as such an innocent target.
Anger can also manifest itself as blame. In the aftermath of a death by suicide, a surviving loved one may blame others for the death or may cast that blame on his or her self. Overcoming this type of self-directed blame arising from anger associated with a suicide death must occur in order for a person to work through the grief process in a healthy and complete manner.
Dealing With Anger During the Grief Process
The Mayo Clinic has set forth a strategy through which a grieving person can address anger associated with a loss, including the death of a loved one by suicide. The Mayo Clinic strategy is thorough and includes 10 elements:
- Think before you speak: Take a breath to collect your thoughts before you say anything.
- Express your concerns when you are calm: State your needs and concerns directly and clearly at a point in time when you are not angry.
- Express concerns when not angry: State any concerns that you may have when you are not feeling angry.
- Get exercise: Regular exercise is proven to help reduce stress and tamp down anger.
- Take a timeout: It is important to note that timeouts are not just for children. Take a short break from something or another that you find stressful. This can assist in preventing the onset of anger.
- Identify potential solutions: Focus on what, why, and how you become angry. See if there are some adjustments that can be made to avoid putting you in a position where you might tend to become angry.
- Use “I” statements: Blaming someone else for your emotional state is unhelpful in nearly all instances. When expressing your thoughts or concerns, stick to using “I” statements rather than accusatory ones.
- Avoid grudges: Strive to avoid holding grudges against others. This can be particularly challenging in a context involving the death of a loved one by suicide. (You might even be holding a grudge against that person.)
- Use humor: Laughing can be helpful when working through grief. Becoming angry or staying angry can be difficult if not impossible when you laugh.
- Use relaxation techniques: When you feel your temper flaring, take advantage of relaxation techniques like deep breathing, journaling, or yoga.
- Seek support and assistance: If you find yourself having problems with anger as you grieve the death of a loved one by suicide, consider seeking professional support and assistance from a therapist or counselor. There are therapists and counselors who specialize in grief. Indeed, there are therapists and counselors that work with survivors of suicide loss.
Talk It Out
A moment ago we discussed seeking professional assistance if you find yourself struggling with anger in the aftermath of the death of a loved one by suicide. Professional assistance can be invaluable. Bear in mind that you should also consider sharing your concerns, fears, and feelings with a person in your life that you trust. Expressing how you feel can be helpful when it comes to controlling anger as you grieve.