There are emotions that were not allowed in my family growing up. One was fear, the other was anger. For much of my early life and into adulthood, my family’s filter was “Be tough and resilient.” My mother would tell us, “You have no right to be angry.” Much like a person is told to look through rose-colored glasses, my father was always telling his two daughters to “toughen up.” We believed this until we were challenged as adults in the workplace and our own families. Fast forward several decades later, I do not believe anyone can escape the feelings of anger and fear…at some point, we all become faced with the challenge of what to do with those feelings. But what do I do with that anger and fear when I find myself, after my mother’s passing, angry and fearful? First, I have to ask myself, why am I so angry? Do I have an unresolved grudge? No. Someone once told me that anger is not so much a feeling, rather it is your expectations not being met. It usually masks another feeling like fear or sadness. It would stand to reason that I am feeling angry because my whole world looks different since she died. That is scary for me. And holiday time makes life even more strange. Nothing we do is the same; everything is either different or the absence of her in a normal setting is almost unbearable. This led me to investigate how I can bear the weight of my anger and fear of living in this world without my mom? How can I express my feelings of anger or anxiety in a way that is safe? Sometimes our emotions are so complicated that it is like an emotional casserole. When things become intense, any feeling can bubble to the top without warning. Here are some ways you can mitigate your emotions: 1. Sit in the feeling and air it out. This may sound hard, but one of the best things you can do is allow yourself to work through what you are experiencing. Take a deep breath and then slowly let it out. Neurologist Dr. Caroline Leaf says we are able to think, feel and choose our way to healthy, emotional well-being. Leaf has an app called Neurocycle that helps you work through the toxic feelings and change your perspective. For example, you should ask yourself “what am I feeling?” Anger. “What am I feeling angry about?” I don’t like any of my current circumstances; my mom is dead and I miss her and the way things were. I am irritated that I cannot interact with her. “What can I choose to do about this?” Maybe I can call someone who knew mom and talk with them. 2. Take a walk or run. Exercise is a good way to burn off steam. If you are angry and take a walk or do some kind of aerobic activity you will notice your mood start to improve afterward because exercise releases endorphins. Ask a friend to go with you to keep you accountable.
3. Art is a great way to express your anger, anxiety, and grief. You can paint, sew, scrapbook, pottery; anything!
4. Listen to music. Try to discover new music you like by subscribing to a music service like Spotify or Pandora. What once was is no more and our family will need to find new ways to celebrate holidays and deepen relationships. I highly recommend you download our free booklet, Holidays Without You to assist you in this effort. And who knows, maybe you will discover something beautiful in the process about yourself and your future.