The Survivor Experience: Part 2: Anger

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Original Article from the Alliance of Hope 


It has been said that suicide is like a “grenade going off within a family or community,” In the aftermath, survivors are left pofoundly wounded and deeply distressed. Many grapple with debilitating emotions, altered relationships, and challenging responsibilities. Each situation is unique, but some issues are commonly shared by survivors.

Research tells us that it is helpful to know about common survivor reactions. Being informed does not make the reactions disappear. That will take time … a probably a good deal of grief-work. It will help though, to know that what you are feeling is commonly felt by other survivors and that it is possible to survive and go beyond just surviving. Over the next few days, we will bring you information about common survivor issues.


In the aftermath of suicide, survivors feel many strong emotions, sometimes moving from one to another fairly rapidly. Anger is an integral part of the traumatic and complicated grief process. Sometimes, survivors experience displaced anger. They feel upset, dissatisfied and irritated.

“My life is very out of control right now. It seems like everything bothers me and I have zero tolerance or patience with anybody in my life. I would like somebody to talk to me, to help me out, but when they do, I criticize them because they don’t say the right thing or do the right thing or because their tone of voice just seems so ‘annoying’ to me.”

Sometimes, anger is focused at individuals who may have hurt their loved. It can also be focused at mental health professionals or others who are insensitive to their grief.

“I’m not angry with my son. I”m angry that a death occurred and that the death was a suicide. I’m angry that I can’t cope with my grief. I’m angry that everyone’s life is going on and mine is not. I’m angry that I did not see this coming. I’m angry at the people who gave him the gun. I’m angry they seem to have no sadness or remorse.”

Although some survivors say they have never felt anger towards their loved one, most do at some point.

“When he took his life, I am sure that he did not think for one minute about the consequences of what he was about to do. He would not have thought about how I wake every night with thoughts running through my head about his death, the pain, the anger. … God, sometimes I feel so angry.”

Sometimes months or years go by before someone experiences anger.

“I think I’m finally angry at him, after five months. I’m mad, sad … he took my bet friend with him … all my hopes and dreams; he took our future too, and left me with this awful flashback of finding him. I’m mad he was so weak. He really had nothing to be sad about. He had money, a beautiful family, a home, toys, work, everything … except this awful psychosis and minor bipolar disorder that no one knew about. … I’m just angry at the world and don’t like anyone or anything except my child.”

“I finally got angry after three years. I was in so much grief, loss trauma and shock. I was just numb and in a fog for three years. It finally all welled up in me and I wrote pages and pages that I plan on burning. I am hoping I will feel all the other emotions since I let loose with the anger.”

Invariably survivors feel guilty or conflicted when they do experience anger.

“My husband left me with a lot of unfinished business. I was sitting this morning wondering how he could do that to me and then I think that sounds elfish and I get mad at myself for feeling that way. Too many different feelings. Yesterday was a good day. Last night was horrible. This morning I just feel sick to my stomach and I want to crawl in a hole. It’s the fact that they made the choice to leave us. To walk out on us. I get very conflicted sometimes just thinking about it.”


Click here to read other Parts of The Survivor Experience:

Part 1: Crisis of Faith
Part 2: Anger 
Part 3: Sadness, Depression and Despair
Part 4: Love
Part 5: The Journey
Part 6: Secondary Wounds
Part 7: Shock
Part 8: Stigmatization