Relationship Grief Stage 2: Anger

In one of our previous articles, we began exploring the five stages of relationship grief by looking at denial as the first stage of the process.

Even though the pain associated with loss seems unbearable and unacceptable, as weeks go by, you begin to realise that the person you loved isn’t coming back. This harsh truth will bring about wave after wave of frustration.

In other words, you’re slowly transitioning from “This can’t be happening to me!” to “Why is this happening to me!?

“Why me!? It’s not fair!”

During this second stage of relationship grief, the numbing effect of denial wears off, creating enough space for pain to rush to the surface.

Since you’re not yet ready to accept the reality of losing your significant other, you feel angry at them. Depending on the circumstances of your breakup, your mind will find a million reasons to blame them for all the emotional turmoil that you’re experiencing.

Maybe you’re angry because they betrayed you, or perhaps you’re mad at how they treated you throughout the relationship.

Maybe you were the victim of their emotional abuse, or perhaps you’re frustrated at their complete lack of empathy and understanding.

The point is, when anger and frustration ‘take the wheel,’ your mind will gradually find all sorts of events and experiences that reinforce this feeling, regardless of how irrational and blown out of proportion they may seem.

If you’ve lost your significant other to illness and death, the ‘anger’ stage looks a bit different. In other words, since you can’t blame them for your loss, you begin to lash out at other people. You honk insistently at the driver who cuts you off, yell at the cashier because they’re taking too long, and drive your friends away with your unpredictable attitude or behaviour.

On the one hand, you know this attitude is problematic, and you try to control your anger as best as you can. On the other hand, you need to blame someone for the injustice you feel was done to you, so you project all your anger on whoever gets in your way.

What you need to remember is that anger is a sign of suppressed emotions. Deep down, you’re probably experiencing helplessness, sadness, regret, and a whole lot of emotional pain.

Here’s how you can navigate the ‘anger’ stage:

1. Know your triggers

Take a moment to think about situations, contexts, and topics of conversation that can trigger anger and frustration. Maybe you’re triggered by the restaurant where the service was slow. Or perhaps you’re triggered by a social media post, which is close to your heart.

Knowing your triggers is the first step in getting a handle on frustration and anger.

2. Take a deep breath, exhale, repeat

Whenever you feel anger bubbling up on the surface of your mind, stop from whatever it is that you’re doing at that moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and exhale slowly.
That way, you give your mind enough time to process whatever triggered you and develop an alternative response.

3. Give voice to your frustration

Beneath all that anger and rage is a whole range of painful emotions that you refuse to acknowledge and accept.

Although it may be quite challenging, try to understand what’s really causing you to lash out at people.

Talk to someone who listens and understands what you’re going through; a friend, family member, or grief counsellor or psychologist.

Stay tuned for part three of our series.

About the editor, Amelia Cambrell

About the editor, Amelia Cambrell

Amelia Cambrell, Psychologist & Counsellor, BA; BSc (Hons); M Psych (Counselling); Dip Clin Hypnotherapy, is a senior psychologist at Counselling in Melbourne and with 15-years of experience in the mental health space is driven to seek client outcomes.

Find out more about Amelia Cambrell

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