One of the earliest emotions that recently bereaved people report feeling is anger. The perfect antidote to anger is forgiveness.
When you face the loss of a loved one, particularly when it’s a sudden loss, you may find yourself plagued with a whole host of emotions, ranging from shock and sadness through to anger or even relief.
Today we’ll look at anger, seeing if it’s a type that you recognise in yourself, notice what it is doing to you, and then explore ways in which to gradually let it pass.
Types of anger
Anger comes in many varieties, from mild dissatisfaction through to intense frustration, and is normally aimed towards someone.
- anger at the criminal – the driver who caused the accident; the thug who mugged him in the street; the burgler who frightened him in his home.
- anger at the medical team – the surgeon couldn’t save his life; the nurse did not take good enough care of him; the doctor didn’t pick it up sooner.
anger at the disease – breast cancer took yet another life in my dear family!
anger at the person who has died – he went and left me to look after this young family on my own.
anger at yourself – I should have been more caring and loving and now I won’t get a chance anymore…
anger at the almighty – how can God be so cruel to take him away from me before I was ready for it?
Clouded with the pain of grief, you may feel justified with this anger. But what’s it really doing to you?
Anger – the disease
Anger is the type of thing that grabs you by the throat, will turn your whole life upside down, pushing away all the things you hold so dearly in your life.
- your health: Anger wrecks your health. It breaks down your immune system. It spreads through every cell in your body, shutting your body down bit by bit.
your relationships: Anger wrecks your relationships. It pushes away the people you care about and who sincerely care for you.
your career: Anger wrecks your work-life. It clouds your judgement and reduces the quality of your work.
your state of mind: Anger wrecks your mind. It places a heavy piercing weight on your head, making you feel like you’re drowning in the boiling ocean.
Tell me, is holding onto this anger worth it?
Some people I’ve spoken with during bereavement support visits report to not caring about the anger or the damage it’s doing. They say they don’t care about any of it because there is nothing more to live for.
But what if there was an antidote – something you could do to banish anger from your kingdom to lead a more calm and purposeful life – something really worth living for?
Forgiveness – the perfect antidote to anger
It turns out that there is such a cure to anger – one that will indeed bring about more lightness and clarity in your life. This antidote to anger is the quality of forgiveness.
To forgive means to let go.
Let go of this blame. Let go of this pain. Let go of this discontent.
The fact is that this world works in a way that we cannot always comprehend. Situations arise in our lives that don’t always make sense and tend to bring us more fear and sadness than happiness and peace.
These situations come about and attempt to destroy all that we have worked hard to accomplish. Our loved ones get taken away and our lives get flattened and sometimes it feels like there’s nothing that can explain it.
So we seek out an answer. We force ourselves to find some way to make sense of what feels like a tragedy taking place in our lives. We find people or situations to blame, thinking that somehow, just somehow, it will help to reduce our pain.
But you know what, perhaps now’s the time to take a step back and see it for what it is. Something totally out of your hands – the nature of the world around us.
You need to know that I do understand. The anger you’re feeling is completely understandable. Those around you, those who care about you, may notice this anger and will either run a mile or will attempt to convince you not to be angry. But it’s ok. By allowing yourself to let it pass, this feeling of anger will gradually fall away.
How to cultivate the practice of forgiveness
To bring about the quality of forgiveness in your life, gradually work through these steps, taking your time through the process.
- Notice: Catch yourself when you’re feeling angry. Close your eyes, become still and watch that anger that has taken form within you. How big is it? What shape is it? What colour is it? How does it feel?
Write: Make a note of whenever you feel angry during the day. What trigger caused it to arise? How did you react to the situation? How did you feel about that reaction?
Resolve: Think about an alternative response to that situation. What could you do the next time this situation arises? You may not get it right for a while, but let the responses you feel are more appropriate develop within you over time.
This process of noticing, writing and resolving can be incredibly powerful as a daily exercise.
As you take some time for yourself each day to notice the strong feelings that arise within you, to familiarise yourself with them and acknowledge them by writing them down and then resolving to let anger go, you will start to feel a sense of lightness develop within you.
Really, there is no rush. Allow yourself to step from stage to stage, gradually lifting away your pain, your grief, your anguish.
Soon you will feel a sense of calm as you purposefully settle into a life of forgiveness.