Following the death of my wife in a car accident, I seem to be angry all the time. My temper is short and I snap at people for no reason. Is this normal or am I losing it?
Most health care professionals agree that most people go through certain steps or stages as they process grief. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified five stages of grief, the second of which was anger. To be honest, it might be better to think of anger as a state rather than a stage. We tend to think of a stage as a phase that leads to another phase or the end result. It would be better to see anger as a “state” during the grieving process where the circumstances or conditions of life are such that anger might easily be the response.
A good comparison occurs in the meteorological field. A tornado watch, or a severe thunderstorm watch, is issued when the conditions in the atmosphere are favorable for the production of the severe weather. Grief puts us under an “anger watch;” the circumstances of life are favorable for us to become angry.
There are times in the natural grief process for the individual to feel frustrated, trapped, and hurting. It is common to have those churning emotions surface and be directed toward someone or something. When we are in pain, we look for someone to blame. Being angry is a way of releasing energy, of protesting a loss that does not make sense or seem fair. Even though deep down one understands that anger is not logical or justified, emotions are rarely logical.
Once the individual has stopped denying that the loss has occurred, the reality of the situation begins to set in, bringing additional confusion, frustration and pain. The mind and body begin to deflect the pain, expressing it instead as anger. The anger may be aimed at an inanimate object – like punching a wall or kicking a trash can. It may be aimed at people; complete strangers, friends or family members. On occasion, the anger may in fact be aimed at the deceased loved one, emotionally distraught because they left us. We feel guilty for feeling anger, which of course only makes us feel more angry.