Grief and Anger

As many of you know, my sweet 14-year old poodle, Claire Bear, tragically died a couple of weeks ago. I’m still grieving. Grief doesn’t seem to get easier over the years and as I’ve said many times, there aren’t any shortcuts. It seems whatever’s unresolved at the time of a loss comes back to be dealt with when another loss occurs.

When I first started working at the Kennedy School of Government many years ago, I worked at the Center for Business and Government for a professor emeritus who was 84 years old. Many days he would row on the Charles River over lunch. One day he came back from rowing and I could tell he had been crying. I asked him if he was okay. He said he had just learned another friend of his had died. He said he was at the age when all of his friends were dying. I was in my 20’s at that time and felt rather invincible, as young people do. I had empathy for him but couldn’t truly relate as I only had a couple people close to me die at the time. But his comment stayed with me. Now being back where I grew up and experiencing many relatives – aunts and uncles in addition to my parents, and friends’ parents, dying – I think about what Ray Vernon said that day years ago. If we live to a ripe age, none of us will be unscathed by loss.

Since I’m dealing with another loss, I got out my notes on grief and loss and how to get through it. I know the basics of increasing self-care and receiving love from others. I know extra rest and sleep is important, as well as eating healthy food, and exercising. And I’m reminded that there aren’t shortcuts. You have to feel the waves of grief when they come and they will come. And they will pass and occur less and less frequently as time goes on.

I heard something about grief over the weekend that made me chuckle. Most people know about Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I know that many think this model is outdated and maybe even unhelpful and there are other models of grief including seven and 12 steps, etc. However, I believe they all include anger. I heard Stacey Abrams interviewed over the weekend and she was asked about a very public loss she went through and did it make her angry. She said (I paraphrase) that, yes, she got angry and, in fact, that was her favorite stage of grief and she went back to it often.

Such refreshing honesty. As I’ve written before, I don’t think women in our culture have learned how to deal with anger or believe that it’s okay to be angry. It is an emotion that is okay to feel. There is so much loss all around us. This pandemic has forced everyone to deal with grief and so if you are feeling angry…it is okay…in fact…it is normal. As I’ve also said many times over the years…we feel what we feel…it’s what we do with those emotions. So while I’m advocating for feeling anger, it’s also important to be aware of what we’re doing with that anger and to make sure that we’re not harming ourselves or others with it. That may be the topic of my next post…

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