Feeling Angry? Maybe You’re Going Through The Five Stages Of Grief For Your Old Life

Grazia speaks to an expert about coronavirus-induced anger and anxiety.

Feeling angry

by Rhiannon Evans |
Updated on

Within the last week of coronavirus lockdown, the mood seems to have turned – definitely if you’re on Twitter. Anger seems to be starting to seep in.

Whether it’s anger at the government; at someone else’s opposing opinion (though we guess that’s nothing new on Twitter); anger that we’re clapping NHS workers rather than giving them decent pay and PPE; anger at the people still meeting in groups at your park; anger at celebs you think are twisting the rules; anger at the fact that all you want to eat is a Pret sandwich... They are all valid emotions.

We are angry. And we are grieving – mourning the sudden loss of everything that we'd not only been taken for granted, but also had never considered would be taken away. Who would’ve ever dreamt that there would be strict rules about leaving the house in 2020?

Of course, it’s important to say that thousands of people are currently experiencing true grief for people they love and have lost because of Covid-19, an unimaginable pain and scenario that pales in comparison to frustrations about our day-to-day lives.

But it does certainly feel as if some of us are dealing with a loss – most of us are even displaying the classic coping mechanisms (like alcohol, food and sex) or finding things emotionally overwhelming out of the blue.

Feelings of anger can arise when we no longer feel like we are in the driving seats of our own lives.

Perhaps then, as we enter the fifth week of lockdown, we’re reaching the ‘anger’ stage of those five stage of grief, famously identified by David Kessler and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Counselling Directory member Laurele Mitchell agrees. ‘The feelings of loss that many of us are experiencing as a result of the current pandemic and the resultant lockdown are comparable to those experienced after a death, and a sudden one at that, with the suddenness adding another dimension to the loss that is absent when something is anticipated,’ she says. ‘We’ve had little to no time to prepare for the disruption to the life that we had once taken for granted or to say goodbye to a life that might never be the same again.

‘As with a bereavement, grief following any loss is not experienced as a straight line in that we don’t move through each stage in sequence and it will be different for everyone, sometimes even hour to hour. The five stages of grief identified are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – and it might be helpful to remind ourselves that they are a natural part of the process.’

In fact, one of the root causes of lots of people’s anger – the mass gatherings of some people in parks early in the crisis (and in some places to this day) – was a key sign of the first stage, denial, says Laurele. ‘Denial helps us to come to terms with a loss by letting it into our awareness gradually and at our own pace so that we are not overwhelmed by it, which is why some people may appear to be taking a business-as-usual approach to the pandemic.’

And there’s another reason you might be starting to feel angry. ‘Living with prolonged uncertainty is also a common trigger for the flight-or-fight response, which some of us will experience as anger and some as anxiety,’ she says. ‘It’s important to be mindful that again our anger and anxiety are there to serve a purpose: to protect us from a perceived threat, which in this case is proving all too real.’

Anger is a fairly textbook response to the situation we’ve found ourselves in, specifically the sense of losing control.

‘A common feeling of loss that most of us might reasonably expect to experience is the loss of control or more accurately the loss of the illusion of being in control of our lives that we arguably need to be able to get out of bed in the morning,’ adds Laurele. ‘Feelings of anger can arise when we no longer feel like we are in the driving seats of our own lives but, if we are able to avoid thinking of anger in negative terms, we begin to realise that it serves an important purpose in grieving.

'Directed appropriately, it can help us feel more connected and in control by giving us a focus and an outlet for the feelings that we might be struggling to express against a backdrop of seemingly unending uncertainty. It also demonstrates how much what we’ve lost means to us and, in time, it might actually motivate us to make the necessary changes to prevent a recurrence and to safeguard all that we hold dear in the future.’

Whether that’s hugging your friends tighter, enjoying sexual freedoms or, y'know, popping out to get that takeaway coffee, perhaps then the ‘grief’ we are currently feeling will lead us to be more grateful in the future. And, of course, that’s the key difference – unlike those mourning their loved ones, we all hope that in the future (however near it is) that the things we’re missing will come back to us.

For now then, Laurele says the best thing we can do is sit with our feelings and try to understand them. ‘The more we can allow ourselves to feel our feelings without judgment or resistance, to name and to give voice to them, be that to a trusted family member, friend or journal, the more likely it is that we are able to enter the fifth stage of grief, acceptance, by coming to terms with the reality of what life has become and to live in the moment as opposed to what we thought it was and ought to be again.’

READ MORE: A Millennial Guide To Helping A Friend Who Is Grieving Any Kind Of Loss

READ MORE: The Grazia Team Share Their 'Little Lifts' That Are Helping Them Through Isolation

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