By heatherericksonauthor.comThe Erickson Family

Anger & the Grief Process

Anger and Grief

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is A is for Anger & the Grief Process.

When someone you love has cancer…

You grieve. Anger is very often one of the early manifestations of that grief you may think of grief with the death of a loved one, but grief is a response to loss. This could be the loss of your health, your job, a relationship, or a lifelong dream.

For patients, caregivers and family members, grieving begins the moment you realize that you or a loved one has cancer. There is a big shift in the story you pictured for yourself. The outcome may not look anything like you had hoped or imagined. Even if your cancer isn’t terminal, there is a lot to grieve when you or someone you love has cancer. It often brings a laundry list of losses with it.

Common losses:

  • Time: Sometimes a caregiver has to devote all of their time to caring for the patient.
  • Anticipated Grief: As you are caring for your loved one, you’re acutely aware that you may lose them.
  • Activities: A health crisis can mean no longer living as you once did. This is true for caregivers as much as for patients.
  • Lost Dreams: After a cancer diagnosis, life no longer looks like the one you had planned. It will never be the same again.
  • That, in itself, is a tremendous loss.
  • Finances: Often the patient and/or the caregiver have to stop working. This loss of income means fewer opportunities and
  • more financial stress.
  • Stability: Each family member is experiencing grief in their own way. While the patient is usually shielded from this, caregivers frequently have to help everyone manage this experience.

What’s behind the Anger?

Anger is one of the most common reactions to intense stress, such as the kind experienced in the face of a serious illness. It helps to consider what is behind this emotion and how to express it in a healthier way.
Feeling angry is a normal reaction to cancer. It feels unfair. People get angry when something is unfair. You may even be angry with the person who is sick. This can lead to feelings of guilt. Often, anger is covering up deep-seated sadness. Talk with someone about the things you feel cancer has taken from you and your family. Sharing these things with someone else can be an act of empowerment.

Grief and AngerIt’s Okay to Feel Angry

It is a valid response during the grieving process. Feeling anger doesn’t make you a bad daughter, husband, sister, etc. or that you’re not coping well. It makes you human. Unfortunately, the expression of anger can often be destructive with shouting, cruel words, or even physical violence. Most people lose any feeling of security and safety when someone is showing out-of-control anger.

Express your feelings rather than act them out.

Yet, it’s important to fight the instinct to stifle your feelings. They need to be recognized. Not only is hiding your feelings exhausting, but it also sends a signal to your family members that they should do the same thing. That’s why it is important to express these feelings in a constructive, healthy way. It’s important that you don’t take these feelings out on the people around you. They are hurting too.

How to release your anger

Find healthy ways to release the anger. This could be something physical, like walking or some other sport. It could be something symbolic, like writing down the things about cancer that make you angry and then burning the list (in a safe, controlled way). Immerse yourself in a hobby. Pray.

You can be angry without falling apart.

These feelings won’t last long. There are many other emotions you will experience as you grieve. They are all ways of fine-tuning your feelings. Be gentle with yourself and your loved ones and you will get through this a stronger person in the end.


I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.


I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!


In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on

Also, check out Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer.

Also, put your memories into words with The Memory Maker’s Journal.

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

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10 comments on “Anger & the Grief Process

There’s no way around the anger is there but these are great strategies. It becomes what you do, before coping.


That’s a great way of putting it, Jacqui. Thank you, and happy A to Z!

My brother just died of cancer this past January. What’s surprised me a bit is how I seem to be cycling through the stages of grief. Some days I’m mad, others sad, others accepting, then repeat in different ways.

~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
My A to Z’s of Dining with IC
Patricia Lynne, Indie Author


Hi Patricia, I am so sorry for your loss. Sometimes I think it’s like those “Groundhog Day” style movies where we keep repeating the same thing over and over, making a few adjustments/changes each time, getting closer and closer to jumping off of the merry-go-round. I’ve been cycling through a “living grief.” My husband is still alive but terminal. If it’s this difficult now, I wonder how I will survive actually losing him. Blessings to you!

Having lost my Dad, Mum & more recently my brother to cancer I have some feeling of what you are going through. They were all in their early to mid 60s and as I am now 60 it does cross my mind sometimes the thought that maybe I might fall to this horrible disease. Fortunately, I don’t think of this that often. I exercise regularly which helps to keep my body fit but also improves my mental health and positivity. Being a carer is such a huge responsibility and because carers don’t usually show their negative emotions, people forget how difficult it can be for them. I’m looking forward to your AtoZ Challenge contributions. Have a beautiful day xx


Thank you, Sue. Keeping in touch with what’s happening with our bodies is something that is helping people stay healthy. Early detection has changed many diseases (including cancer) into something manageable and even curable. I am really looking forward to reading your posts this month as well. I loved your post today on “ageless.” You have a beautiful day, too!

Well written and explained, Heather. My father is in chemo now. Anger comes and goes but usually now he’s happy to be done with major surgeries and radiation.

Emily In Ecuador | Almuerzo – Good Lunch Choice in Puerto Lopez


Hi Emily. I’m sorry to hear that your father is facing cancer right now. I assume he is long-distance from you. It can be especially difficult for loved ones like you to cope with long-distance caregiving. God can close the gap. I will keep him in my prayers, as well as your family. Bless you!

Hi Heather, He is long distance. I am in Ecuador and he in California. I was fortunate to spend six weeks with him a few months ago. We speak often, which would not be possible without the internet – it is such a great tool for staying in touch. Thank you for your kind words in the midst of all you are going through.


Hi Emily. We have been so thankful for Skype. We have a daughter, son-in-law, and twin grandsons in California and we are in Minnesota. Thanks to Skype and Facetime, our grandsons are able to know their grandpa and even make memories with him. I’m sure your Dad is so grateful for you, no matter how far away you are. It’s nice that the internet has made the world smaller. Bless you!

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