A Grief-activated Meltdown

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I can go down rabbit holes of exploration, looking for the “how to”.  This past week started with a link to a podcast on dealing with anger and then reading various articles on anger management and self-compassion. Anger is one of the “stages” of grief, so it’s not too surprising I’m dealing with it. And I know I’m not alone in dealing with grief in retirement; we are of an age that many of us will have (have already had) people we love passing away. 

I had a huge anger meltdown last week and it frightened me. I’ve not gotten angry that often in the past and this one was a violent doozy. And then, there it was – a link to a podcast specifically on anger (Selfhealers soundboard). I don’t (normally) listen to podcasts, but the topic was so serendipitous!

Yes, I also looked into serendipity. Rabbit holes can have multiple paths!  Serendipity is when something you thought of or wished for seems to “magically” appear. I also learned that quantum physics is showing that serendipity is actually scientifically supported – where conscious attention (mental energy) is focused,  it does in fact influence what happens.  So, whether modern psychology, new age spirituality, or metaphysical theory… where your attention goes so energy flows.  My attention was on anger (management) and there it was – a podcast on topic!

The two extremes of anger expression are eruption and silence.  Eruption can be violent, hitting, breaking, yelling, or cursing. Silence can be detachment, disassociation (numbing), conflict avoidance, passive-aggression, distraction, or manipulation.  My normal anger response, for years, is on the side of silence, but recently, as part of my grieving journey, I am expressing anger as eruption, which has frightened me. I also realized that I am fearful of violent anger behavior in general. I react strongly to others expressing violent anger and so expressing it myself was highly upsetting – I was afraid of my own behavior.

Anger is often just the tip of the iceberg of deeper feelings. Is the deeper feeling fear lacking control or powerlessness?  Is the deeper feeling a trigger on abandonment or rejection?  I realized my explosive anger reactions come from triggering my abandonment fear with either a perception of incompetency or non-belonging.

Looking further into anger management has me realizing I needed to be more aware of when my triggers were being tapped, especially now in my grieving mode when I seem to be more sensitive to negative emotions. I’ve also recognized that when I get angry I stop listening (remnant of shutting down), so will need to be more aware of that behavior.

Some suggestions I found for my own anger management:

  • Use deep breathing skills!  I have them & need to use them when anger escalates.
  • More stepping away from the situations so anger does not escalate. Do more with planning the difficult situation(s), including awareness I need to listen more.
  • Have a few ready to go glimmers that are calming or distracting. The idea of calming or distracting glimmers (see blog on glimmers here) was a different spin!  It is not the smashing something, yelling & screaming, nor drinking approaches – all suggested to me by various people to deal with my anger. I need to determine, what makes me feel more peaceful?  What calms me down?
  • Have a mantra like, “I’m okay.  Stay calm.  I can handle this.”

I’ve been told that the grieving process is also a journey of growth. And anger is part of grief.  So learning how to better manage my own anger is part of that growth for me.

Do you have a “peace-giving, calming glimmer” to share with me?

Picture Credit: One of my glimmers is crafting – a set of plant fairy wands I made for this week’s flower show.

Copyright © 2023 retirementtransition.blog – All rights reserved.

17 thoughts on “A Grief-activated Meltdown

  1. I don’t have anything more to add to this post which I find interesting and filled with good advice. I do love your “peace-giving, calming glimmer” idea and am smiling because of the phrase. Maybe we all need to remind ourselves to “glimmer on” as a way of coping in the moment?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Pat, thank you for another very open and honest post. I fall into the silence side of anger expression… I usually just shut down because I loathe confrontation. On the rare occasion I express my anger it’s usually through a flurry of expletives, lashing out at the situation – then I digress into tears. Not pretty! When I feel anger building I will remove myself from the situation and listen to music (lately anything Taylor Swift seems to calm me down!)
    Still sending bug hugs and positive vibes for your journey🤗🌞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sharon, I did a leave the situation today, before my anger escalated. Of course, now I need to keep it from escalating as I think about the situation (and rethink my actions… because of course I’m going to do that, again and again). But it is a journey, and it’s a surprise to me how fragile I feel and how much more prone to feeling my triggers right now. Tonight is gonna be some good self-care time!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing yet another deep, vulnerable post with us, Pat. The fact that you are so aware of your emotions and intentional about learning and growing from them benefits us all.

    I don’t know that it’s a glimmer, but I’ve found that crying serves as a release for my anger and then allows me to move forward. Of course, depending on the situation, tears aren’t always welcome in the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Christie, I’m not opposed to crying, and have cried quite a bit the past few months. Thanks for sharing it works for you for anger release. It didn’t seem to help with my anger, for me. (There was some tears going on in the mix!) Awareness of my triggers helped me today… to avoid getting angrier. And being outside. Intentional learning!


  4. “…where your attention goes so energy flows.” Now that is a lesson to sit with. Thank-you!

    I believe it was Aristotle who wrote about ethical, useful anger…for the right reason, in the right measure, sent in the right direction.

    I have become less fearful of anger over the years, my own and others’. It’s an emotion. Like all emotions, I believe it is asking me to listen to my gut, to feel, to be alive to this moment. I think, in some ways, anger is a way of saying to myself or others, “Let me be. I am ok. I don’t need to be fixed. I just need space and time to grow and to heal. And I need people who understand that.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I fall into the eruption camp when it comes to anger. Under anger is often fear & sadness. I experience a lot less anger these days after years of personal growth exploration (translate that into less fear & sadness). I admit that I’m still a cusser although not so passionately! I also think it’s important to clarify & name our emotions. Passionate expression can be perceived as anger by some. Emotion is neither good or bad; it’s how we express it that can have positive or negative connotations. Anger can incite us to do better. I’m not a big believer in suppressing emotion for all the negative effects of internalization. I do endorse healthy exploration & expression of those emotions. Keep on keeping on, Anne.


    1. Anne, thanks for that insight. I’m certainly not looking to suppress anger, which I believe has been more my normal. Finding my way to do healthy expression is definitely my goal.


  6. In my pre-retirement past I was a divorce lawyer and part of the recovery process for clients invariably included an angry phase. Talk about needing a tin hat! At least I always knew that they were healing at that point and my life and theirs was going to get easier moving forward.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fascinating that the angry phase was part of the healing process. I’m going to need to think about that – is this (violent angry melt downs) in fact necessary for me to work through my grief? It’s an intriguing question!


  7. Pat, thank you for openly sharing your progression with us. I have had ‘anger meltdowns’ a few times in my life – some were doozies. When I peel the layers back, all of those times shared the same core – feeling powerless. For a lot of years, I confused that with helplessness. No situation is helpless, as long as you have a mind and a will. Keep working through the process, and you will get there.

    These days, I head to the beach or pop on my headphones and listen to soulful music. Clarity comes when the mind is calm enough to truly see. All the best to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Suzanne. It’s nice to know I’m in such good company with my anger meltdowns. I guess I’m lucky they don’t happen often, and I’m gaining clarity on the triggers. One today was the “you don’t belong” trigger and instead of getting mad, I left and came home to do some gardening. And yes, it calmed me down.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What an incredibly open and honest post this is. Most of us hide these things away, but you bring them out and examine them. Volatile anger is hard because then the guilt sets in for your behaviour, and then one bests themselves up, over and over again. So, as you can tell, I have first hand experience. For me to find peace- it’s outside. Doesn’t matter the season or location. I need to go outside and walk.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s