Grief takes many forms: losing a loved one, pet, or marriage. It can happen when we lose something or someone with a change of school, home, or friend group.
Moving past denial and shock, we may go on to anger. Anger can take us into rage depending on what we do with the anger or how we handle things. Learning to use our skills and self-regulation skills can help to elevate aggression or rage.
Anger is a valid emotion, and it is a normal emotion that all of us must learn to work through. Violence or aggression while working through our anger are actions or behaviors we may experience or exhibit while dealing with traumatic grief.
Violence is never a good option as it can be and is destructive and costly. Aggression can be expensive words or actions as you can’t take them back after they are spoken or acted out.
While going through his grief stage of anger, Scott was very destructive, aggressive, angry, and violent. It was not a good time to be near him as he needed time to process. However, with his anger surrounding his mother’s death, Scott also had anger from being bullied at school. He was mad at the world and could easily be set off by any emotional issue or perceived upset.
This anger has subsided in many areas; however, when he becomes emotionally frustrated or overwhelmed, he will resort to anger, aggression, and sometimes violence.
These grief stages are not linear but more fluid-in the understanding you will move between them often for years. Triggers may bring you to denial (I can’t believe this happened!) or anger (what will we do for Christmas without her?)
While he was in his ‘anger’ stage, he was very violent and destructive at my house. He would run off and hide.
For a while, my yard was his wrecking ball. He would break and rip out everything his mother had planted or built in our backyard.
I need to explain that his mother was our gardener- so our yard was actually theirs. She planted flowers and built a climbing tree, a ninja course, and a flowerbed. My yard, set up for supervised visits, had spaces for them to play and relax.
After her murder and he realized other people would be working in ‘her’ yard, he became aggressive, and if Scott knew the person was coming to work on the yard, he would break walkways, put sticks and rocks in the yard, and block off the opening for the lawnmower. Scott would sit outside with a hammer and break up concrete blocks she used to make the landscaping. He would also use spray paint to graffiti the lawn or shed.
Finally, we concluded that he was allowed one block and some hardened concrete bags to beat on when he thought of his mother and what happened. He was also allowed to choose the person who worked in our yard. He planted her a flowerbed with two hearts and tulips, which would bloom each Easter on her death anniversary. He also put some angels and unique rocks his grandfather gave him from his mother’s childhood.
With this new compromise, we began to plan the yard and make some changes. It was neither instant nor perfect, but it saved the yard for the next few months.
On days he was anxious or angry with memories or uncontrollable sadness, he would stomp or yell in the house. One day after choosing some flowers for her gravesite, he began a mega meltdown that ended the anger portion of his grief.
Remembering, grief is fluid, and we return to anger at different times during the year.
However, this event was the beginning of his depression. He cried – tears were real, massive, and unstoppable. He yelled, ‘it’s not fair! Why- why- why??? I hate this! I hate you! I hate… he continued with everything he hated, all the while slamming his bedroom door. I was concerned the door would fall off, but in the middle of this meltdown and realization, I was afraid to touch him or stop the process. After about 30-minutes, he fell to the ground crying himself to sleep. When he work up, he ripped up all the pictures and paper he had from her. When he came to his senses, he cried again, and we discussed how we could print the photos again and may have to throw the papers away we couldn’t tape together.
As with the other stages, anger can and will exhibit differences in each of us.
For me, anger was exhibited at work. I was frustrated with everything and hated going to work, and I found work draining and tedious; It gave me too much time to think. I would find excuses not to work and ended up taking on a second job just to keep me busy.
In my case, I ended up quitting my job and starting my own business. I struggled to sit and answer emails, phone and deal with what I called childless nonsense.
Busyness was helpful for both of us. It is not always the case as it can help you avoid grief stages.
If you are stuck in one stage, please get help to move past it. If your anger is a problem causing damage to property, relationships, or self, it is time to reach out to a professional.
Remember to give yourself grace, time, and understanding. Talk about the thing you are grieving for so you have positive memories. Please talk about the anger so you can process it, and talk about your emotional state to help navigate your need.