Thursday, September 22, 2016

On The Other Side Of Grief (Stage 2)

      The second stage of grief is anger, which is related most closely to feelings of helplessness, and is the attempt to regain some sense of control.  Anger is often disguised or misplaced.  Often emerging in this stage is an upset sense of reality, characterized by obsessive reviewing.  The obsessive review is woven throughout recovery and is like talking the loss and the event, literally, to death.  The person may insist on talking about old times a thousand times and have little tolerance for other's problems and no interest in other's lives.  There is frequently a verbalized statement that "no one has suffered as much as me."

     This phase is also characterized by the need to place blame.  A great deal of time and energy is invested in trying to figure out why this loss happened and what or who “caused” it.  This is another attempt to reduce the pain.  It is also another way of trying to hold on to life, as they knew it. The time and energy is a distraction from reality for a little while.
It is so difficult to be angry directly - especially at the dead person.  It is hard to be angry with someone you cared for, who didn’t decide to die.  It is so difficult because anger exposes our needs and our fear of weakness with it. This makes us feel terribly vulnerable and exposed
            Our response is often feeling angry, fed up and even disgusted.  We feel angry at the person's passivity, inappropriateness, or self-absorption.  We are sick of hearing about it.  We feel angry that nothing we do seems to help, and we just want them to get on with life.  This is an important turning point in the process, and the most important thing we can do is to say exactly what we feel.  This truly helps the person move into the next stage and keeps the connection of the relationship alive and growing.  If we turn away because we do not want to add to the burden or upset them more, we begin to create distance.  The grieving person is then even more isolated and alone.

      Someone that is stuck (chronic grief) in anger is very easy to spot.  They are often bitter, blaming and sometimes cynical. A person stuck in the anger phase of grief is difficult to be around.  Though they often do not ask for much emotionally, they may be overly demanding in other ways.  The purpose, or attempt here is to feel safe and back in control.  The tasks for this phase is to break free of the attachments that no longer exist so healing can occur. Once again, chronicity creates distance.  Anger of this nature is probably related to early betrayal of the child.  As a youngster this person was most likely required to protect others from their own needs/pain.  So grief elicits enormous guilt and shame at one's impotence.  Helplessness is very hard to deal with, particularly for men.  A lifetime of being in charge and knowing how to "fix" life can be profoundly compromised when faced with loss.  This is very frightening and may cause internal panic, in the form of rage.  Few men have the understanding or emotional skills to deal with intense loss.  The way to help someone stuck in anger is to help articulate the bind they are in and how unfair it all is, that they have to change or retreat.  Otherwise the person is profoundly alone and isolated and believes they are different or strange.

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