Dealing with Loss
Last week I looked at some of the characteristics of loss, which are shock, denial, disbelief, sadness, depression, anger and anxiety and fear.
First of all we all deal differently with loss, because while we may have experienced a similar loss, we grieve differently. We are affected by our childhood, or capacity to feel, our emotional resources, and a whole lot of external factors, such as having friends, a close or not so close family, what we have learned from our parents, our values, our age, gender and so on.
Over a number of weeks I want to look at a number of grieving factors – anger, anxiety/fear and depression. Today I will look at anger.
Anger is one of the biggest feelings of loss. It is a natural reaction to adverse circumstances. It is a good healthy feeling and SHOULD NOT BE SUPPRESSED BUT VENTED IN A SAFE WAY. So we can be angry at the gardai who mount check points to ensure we are staying safe, we can be angry at God for allowing this plague to happen, because we are more or less locked up we can become angry at our partners’ behaviour/habits, whatever. It does not really matter who we are angry with; our task is to distinguish between the feeling of anger and angry behaviour which affects others. There are different types of anger – explosive (blowing up), implosive (blowing up inside), passive aggressive and winding up. Explosive and implosive anger are very dangerous to our health.
It was once thought that expressing anger in a forceful way was the best way to do it, now research shows that expressing it in a more gentle way is the best way to do it. There is a 5 step technique that is very useful, probably the most useful way to vent anger, bearing in mind that we have only about two seconds to deal with it before it takes over. So, the answer is to delay it and so control it. These are the steps –
1. Body cue – where do you feel the anger in your body, your head, chest, stomach hands etc. Note the body cue first
2. Become aware that the body cue is telling you that you are about to get angry. That awareness is vital.
3. Acknowledge that you are angry i.e. the anger has now arrived.
4. Have an internal conversation about it, what is making you angry, think about that for a while. It might be like ‘I’m stuck here. It’s a love day, I want to go out but I can’t. Or, it might be ‘That woman/man is driving me mad. I need to get away.’ The longer this internal conversation is the better.
5. Empathy. This is key to ensuring your anger is properly managed. Empathy in this case means a very small amount of emotional understanding of the person/situation that is causing the anger. For example, you are angry at your husband during the lockdown because he spends a lot of time watching TV and you are trying to cope with managing the children and running the house, so the empathy there might be like ‘well, John is a good worker, now he has no job, that must be hard on him, I guess he is trying to get away from the distress by watching TV. That is just one small example, and it may not be a very good one, but a tiny bit of empathy heals the anger.
When you look at that technique you will see that it prolongs the time before the anger emerges, you can increase the time from two seconds to ten seconds and then you will be able to control the anger rather than have it control you.
There are other ways of anger management, such as abdominal breathing; that however is something you have to learn. It can take several months to learn abdominal breathing.
The best way is the 5 stage way outlined above.
For those who have lost someone during this awful time, the feeling of loss is much greater and correspondingly the feeling of anger is also increased. You can still use the 5 stage anger management technique, but you can use other techniques. Try the breathing, listen to soothing music, listen to water flowing gently (you can listen to that on your computer for some meditation exercises, talk to others even if you can’t visit them, and go for counselling where someone will listen to you in an emphatic way. It is always most distressing to lose a close relative, especially a child or a partner, and in these abnormal times you are without the comfort of others. If you lose someone at this time, there will be days when you feel you are going insane. On Those day you need to hear a friendly, empathic voice. My heart goes out to people experiencing such loss. I know what it is like to feel insane after losing someone I loved.