Anger is the next stage in the stages of pet loss grief and is a much misunderstood emotion.
In our society Anger is always seen as inappropriate, usually no matter what the circumstances. We are taught from an early stage that is it somehow better to bottle up our emotions to keep the peace and to be more socially respectable When other people see us getting angry we are often told that there’s ‘no need to get angry’ or that they ‘won’t talk to us unless we calm down’, or that ‘there are better ways to deal with things than getting annoyed.’
All of these comments tend to dismiss our experience and in actual fact serve only to make a person who is already angry even angrier because they feel as though their feelings, which are valid and important to them, are being dismissed and devalued.
Henry and Moses
In actual fact Anger is a necessary and helpful emotion. In the case of Pet Loss Grief it usually follows a period of shock and numbness called ‘Denial’. In the Denial stage you feel lost and numb to the world.
Then as you gradually become more aware of the situation and more able to face it, you start to realise that you WILL survive this period of pet loss grief and feel more reassured and sometimes surprised that you have made it through your shock and numbness.
Then your feelings start to surface and Anger hits you. You may feel many feelings such as sadness, panic, loneliness and hurt at the same time but Anger is usually the emotion that surfaces first.
Although Anger is a useful and necessary emotion, it comes at a time when your friends and family believe you are coping better with your situation and often serves to drive a wedge between you. Due to most people’s misunderstanding of Anger they see your reaction as a step backwards when they felt you were just beginning to get better.
But Anger is useful and is a necessary stage of pet loss grief and pet grief recovery. It is a sign that you are progressing and not a step backwards as other people may perceive it to be.
The more you choose to feel your anger, the faster it will begin to dissipate and the faster you will make your way through pet loss grief and onto the road of pet grief recovery.
It is important to realise that Anger often doesn’t make sense so it is important to try and feel it without trying to make real sense of it or judging it.
The truth is sometimes life just sucks, life is unfair, the death of a pet is unfair and Anger is a natural reaction to the unfairness of the loss of a pet.
You may feel that your anger is all consuming and will never end. You may feel that you will never calm down and will be forever furious and full of rage.
But your anger will pass and then you will feel start to feel the underlying emotions underneath your anger such as pain and sadness.
I like to think of Anger as a lifeboat that rescues you from the sea of shock and numbness that you feel like you are drifting in when pet loss grief first hits you.
You feel lost and disconnected from everything for a while and numb to everything around you. Then you feel Anger at something or someone and you feel alive again and connected to the world once more.
Most people have little or no idea of how to truly feel their Anger because they have been taught all their lives to suppress it. But keeping the rest of the world happy by doing so does little to help you regain happiness, so you should try to acknowledge and feel your anger.
Tell your friends and family how angry you are. If you feel unable to do this phone a pet loss grief helpline and tell the pet loss grief Counsellor who will be used to dealing with such emotions. Punch and scream into a pillow. Try exercising to help externalise your anger.
I personally like to go for a walk during the day when I know most places I go to will have few people around and I scream and shout as I walk until I feel I have really felt my anger. I may look crazy but it certainly helps to make me feel better.
I think it’s helpful to remember that the anger you feel is usually in proportion to the love you felt for the pet you have lost. So think of it as just another manifestation of the love you had for your pet and don’t let anyone dismiss it or criticise it. They may not understand your feelings now but one day when they suffer a loss they’ll finally get it.