Anger swings to the forefront of your grief process. What do you do with the build up of adrenaline that churns at your gut, or broils in your chest, or clamps your teeth like a vice? If your loss affects the whole family, you will see your children react with energy bursts in their hands, feet and mouth. It’s important to give these energy bursts an outlet before they build pressure and start to have a negative effect on your body, or leak out to hurt people you love.
Adults need to embrace exercise now more than ever. When you are feeling loss, your instinct may be to shut down, sleep, and just sit on the couch. It is important that you find time to peel yourself off the sofa and move your body. Go for a walk, a bike ride, to the gym. Do something to sweat out the toxins that grief and anger dump in your system. Sweat and tears are your friend right now. They carry away the poison of loss. Stay hydrated and go sweat.
Children need to be given permission to release the wiggles.
- They will have a burst of energy and begin to scream or shout. The worst thing to do is tell them to be quiet. That will just cause more anger. Give them a pillow to scream into. Encourage them to scream it out into the pillow any time they feel the urge. After a family loss, I took my kids out into the country, far from people and we had a scream. We bellowed loud and long into the empty field and ended up falling on the ground, laughing at the silliness of it all.
- Children will pinch, hit, slap, push. Explain that it is inappropriate to hurt people or animals, but you understand they need to express with their hands the anger inside of them. Give them something to do with their hands. Put on boxing gloves and give them a bean bag to punch. Take them to a tennis wall or racquetball court. Let them hit balls against a wall for as long as they need to. A volleyball against the side of the house, a batting cage, find an age appropriate way for them to expend the energy in their hands. (Hey, join in, you probably need this too!)
- Another place that energy builds up for kids is their feet. They may kick, stomp, run in place or jump up and down. When you see this, introduce opportunities for them to expel energy. Jogging, running, dancing, karate lessons, trampoline, dog walks. They need to know what they are feeling is normal and have permission to move their feet appropriately. After my divorce, I bought a trampoline for my kids. We all used it. It was great therapy.
Emotive Educational Activity: 2 Taking Control
“She left me to deal with this mess!”
In those moments when denial is asleep and the reality of it all comes crashing through, you may experience great anger at the situation. This is normal. It is part of the process and cannot be skipped and should not be ignored.
Speak: I am angry at (name the loss).
Write: Write a short note to your loss expressing your anger. “Dear Absence of ____, you frickin’ idiot! How dare you leave me at this time when I needed you most!” Use your own words and express the anger broiling in your chest.
Action: It’s about to get physical up in here. Make a mental list of physical activities that you can do. Identify something you can do that is physical to deal with the adrenalin that anger releases into your system. Today is not about actually getting off the couch, it’s just about thinking about physical activities. What are some things you can do? Walk, yoga, hit some balls, run, beat up a pillow. Of course we’re not going take frustration out on another person or animal, but you need to release the toxins that have built up in your body. List three physical activities that you used to enjoy or that you’ve always considered.
LaDonna Cole, Author is a Psychiatric Nurse and Anger Management Therapist. She specializes in story therapy, writing books and stories that encourage recovery. Check out her books here.