let go of anger

How Do I Let Go Of The Anger After A Loss?

I’ve been asked, “How do I let go of the anger?” Losing someone can bring up a range of emotions, like sadness, fear, and guilt. All of these are natural human emotions, and all emotions have a place, including anger. It’s okay to be angry after you lose someone. It’s quite natural. In fact, it’s very common. But there are very good reasons why we want to release that anger. 

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Let Go Of The Anger

The Risks of Holding Onto Anger

Anger doesn’t feel good. And there’s a risk of holding on to anger. It is said that holding on to anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. When we hold on to anger, we might think that we’re punishing the person that we’re angry with. But in reality, we’re punishing ourselves. We’re tying ourselves to that person. We’re not accepting what has happened, and it is preventing us from dealing with our grief in a positive way. Holding on to anger can lead to physical, emotional, and spiritual harm to yourself. There may be reasons why you can’t let go of the anger. Those will need to be addressed.

Why We Should Release Anger

As I alluded to earlier, releasing anger is a way of moving forward and healing yourself. So, we want to release the anger for our own benefit. Often, we think of releasing anger as forgiveness or giving the other person an excuse for what they’ve done. Nothing can be further from the truth. The reason why we want to release the anger is a selfish reason to benefit ourselves. 

Rethinking Death and Relationships

Another way of releasing our anger is to rethink the concept of death. If we can think about things like soul planning and predetermined exit points and understand that every death has a role, that everyone that comes into this world eventually goes out. We can realize that death is a part of life. If we can see that life and death are part of a bigger plan, that alleviates the need for blame and anger. Now, the other thing about anger is if we can think about that person who has passed, and we’re angry because we feel like they’ve been taken away from us. If we can think about the continuity of life beyond physical death, the fact that love, the person, didn’t really end our relationship. It actually just shifted to the next level. And when we’re angry, we are denying what’s happened in the past. We’re denying reality. And we’re not able to move forward into that new relationship and that new understanding. Releasing the anger releases us.

Addressing Guilt and Grief

So once anger is addressed, and we have begun releasing it, we can actually begin to work on our grief. When I work with my clients, many of them are dealing with guilt. Guilt, is just anger turned inward. Instead of being angry at a person on the outside, we’re angry at ourselves. This is extremely common. In fact, I can say every parent I’ve worked with has had that guilt. And the first thing we work on, if that’s there, is releasing that guilt or releasing that anger so that we can focus on our grief

Practical Steps for Releasing Anger

Now, some practical steps to releasing our anger. There are things that we can do, like mindfulness techniques, journaling, and even physical activity. After Shayna passed, I remember one time specifically taking an axe and going out in the backyard and chopping down some overgrown brush in our backyard, as I cried. Hitting a pillow, screaming into a pillow. Anything that’s not harmful to release the anger is fair game.  It could be physical, or it could be just mindfulness. It could be sitting with our anger and contemplating it, understanding it, accepting it, and then letting it go. Thich NHat Han tells us not to fight our anger but to treat it like a baby and ask it what it needs.

Community and Shared Experiences

Community and shared experiences are also helpful. Knowing we’re not alone in our anger and knowing that other people have gone through similar things alleviates anger. Working with them as they’re dealing with their things can be a way of releasing our anger. 

Redirect Your Anger

Anger generates energy, and energy can be redirected. So if you’re angry, take that anger and transform it, transition it into something good. Do something that honors your loved one, such as starting an advocacy program, creating a memorial, or being of community service. Take that energy that might feel negative, and redirect it into something more positive. 

Be Patient with Yourself

I want to remind you when it comes to this, that anger and grief and all these things are a personal journey. It’s going to be different for everybody. And I want you to be patient with yourself as you go through it and understand that you’re not going to get over it necessarily in a day. Reading this article is not going to just take the anger away from you. But they’ll give you a plan and incentive for moving forward. And I also want to re-emphasize that you don’t have to do this alone. You can find someone that you can work with, someone that you trust, or a community that you can work with. 

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