Anger could never be the first stage of grief.

First, you’re busy making arrangements, then you’re just numb.  I figure it takes a good couple of weeks before you get good and pissed off.

If you’ve never juggled before, but always wanted to, you will now have an opportunity to experience the “thrill” of trying to navigate your own grief, while donning the socially-expected stiff upper lip, while simultaneously restraining yourself from slugging someone.  It’s quite a feat.  Nowhere will you get more practice than when you return to work (more about that in another post).

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, in her book On Grief and Grieving, found that “anger is usually at the front of the line as feelings of sadness, panic, hurt and loneliness also appear, stronger than ever.  Loved ones and friends are often taken aback by these feelings . . . . ”

If all of the other things haven’t lunked you on the head, you can now add something else to juggle:  being “likeable.”  The inherent unfairness of this has been noted by Kubler-Ross, the late Gilda Radner, and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin in her Happiness Project blog: “Being gregarious and upbeat wins you more attention and care. It doesn’t seem fair that your likeability should matter at a time when you’re in pain and afraid. But it does.”  Mustering likeability does prevent isolation and can actually pull you out of your own quagmire, but it takes an effort that you sometimes feel you just don’t have.

Everyone in my bereavement group has expressed some degree of anger.  Interestingly, very little of it is directed toward the person who died or God.  It’s the result of what is sometimes experienced as an astonishing lack of compassion, disappointment in various people or family members we thought would “be there,” and simply that the world keeps turning and expects us to do the same as if nothing ever happened.

Yep, we’re angry.  Some of us are even sleep deprived, which probably makes us even crankier.

Like the lion with the thorn in its paw, we just want a little gentle compassion.  We promise not to bite.  And so it is that for the many kindnesses shown to me, my gratitude is unbounded.

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Connie Vasquez

Connie Vasquez is an only child who recently lost her mother after years with Alzheimer's. Through that experience, she learned about compassion, love, forgiveness and grace. Her sense of humor also saw her through. A practicing attorney, cardiac yoga teacher and life coach, Connie lives in New York City.

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