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Anger Management in the Process of Grief


Expert Author Nathalie Himmelrich

Anger is part of the grief cycle consisting of five stages as per Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. The other stages are denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is important to note that experiencing the anger is an important part of the process however it is often contradictory to expectations of self or others and therefore often denied or blocked.

Human response

The anger response has a physical, mental and emotional part. In certain situations it also ends up having a behavioural response. It is absolutely human, even under normal circumstances, to experience anger as part of our experience of being human. Anger is the second stage in the above-mentioned model of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

Anger as part of grieving

After the initial stage of denial and the refusal to accept fact, anger is the response to the realization of no longer being able to continue with the denial. Paired with the anger might come an internal conflict of compassion or reasoning: 'I have no right to be angry at the person who was sick!'

In addition to this, the surrounding family and friends might feel uncomfortable dealing with the misplaced feelings of rage and envy and find it hard to care for the grieving individual.

Misplaced anger

In daily life there is always plenty of people and situations to be frustrated or angry about. In the grieving process, you might find outside reasons for your anger or, with awareness, recognize the desire to project it onto something in order to validate it. It is however seldom the real cause.

Managing anger

The anger response in the body is the same whether is stems from the grieving process or not. Here is it important to experience the anger and observe it. Asking yourself: 'Is this the real cause?' will, with honest self-inquiry and insight, reveal the deeper truth.

In anger management there are a few basic different strategies, we might use unconsciously or consciously: blocking, avoiding, dispelling, projecting, blaming, expressing, using, processing, or witnessing it.

Do's and don'ts

In order to deal with the physical release of adrenalin 20 minutes of vigorous activity or exercise can help as well as muscle relaxation or breathing exercises.

Another worthwhile activity might be writing down what is going in circles on a mind level or speaking it out loud, just by your self. When you are stuck, just ask yourself: What else? And continue until all is said.

Don't drink alcohol or drugs. They might give you temporary relief but in the end make you feel worse.

Don't drive when angry, as it can be dangerous and lead to all kinds of other problems.

Don't make rushed decisions; take time to settle and calm down.


Remind yourself that anger is part of the grieving process and it is normal to experience it. Allow yourself to experience the feeling, which does not mean you have to behave in an angry way all the time. Chose the situations and people carefully so that you feel supported and understood.

Want to know more? Have a look at my website.

Nathalie Himmelrich is the founder of 'Reach for the Sky Counselling & Coaching' and specialises in Relationship Transformation and Grief Support. She is working with individuals and couples using techniques ranging from Meta Coaching, Transformational Counselling, Neuro Linguistic Programming to Journey Therapy. She supports clients in their personal growth in a supportive and professional environment. She is also the author of the forthcoming book 'Grieving Parents - Surviving Loss As A Couple'.

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