Anger as a Grief response
Updated: Oct 1, 2019
My husband and I have been working as volunteers at our local Hospice since 2008. In 2010 we began to facilitate a grief education group twice a year. Since then we have helped many bereaved family members unravel the threads of their grief so they can better make sense of what their grief looks like for them. Unfortunately the course is only available to families whose loved ones use the Hospice services. I am starting this blog to help others, who are not able to access Hospice facilities, to understand their own grief response.
Anger often comes up as a common grief response in our Hospice groups. It can be one of the more difficult aspects of grief to deal with because it often seems incongruous to the grief experienced. To understand why anger may arise as a grief response we need to understand the nature of grief.
Grief can be one of the biggest stressors we will ever experience in life. Stress can put us in the primitive survival mode of fight, flight or freeze. Anger is a natural part of the fight mode when our fear defenses alert us to perceived danger. Anger increases the amount of adrenaline-fuelled energy at our disposal and helps us fend off the perceived threat. This is inbuilt in our survival system but is only ever intended as a short-term response to enable us to fend of the perceived threat.
Often anger will dissipate as the grief process is worked through. Sometimes just knowing that anger is a normal response to grief can be enough to help people understand and let go. Sometimes, however, in cases of more complex grief, anger remains and becomes problematic in the person's life, if not worked through and dealt with at a deeper level. In such cases it is recommended that professional help from a counsellor or other appropriate therapist is sought to assist in the processing of anger from complex grief.