What to do when chronic illness makes you angry

Where do you turn when suffering makes you angry?

Perhaps your father has been diagnosed with cancer, or your mother with Alzeimer’s, and you’re angry. Angry at everyone: the doctors, yourself, the people around you, the sick person, and most of all, God.

So what do we do? Smash a few windows? Yell? Break down into tears? What’s the appropriate response? Is there one?

How do you cope with anger after a chronic illness diagnosis?

What happens when we’re angry at a situation but don’t want to be?

Anger is harmful

I have no “5 Step Plan” to cope with the anger associated with chronic illness. I’m going to admit that up front. But I think it’s helpful to start by admitting that anger is not the best response.

There are more helpful emotions to feel.

I think we all know that. But is anger always wrong? Surely it’s okay to be indignant at injustice, or annoyed at pain.

There’s no simple answer here, no black and white. But we need to remember that righteous or otherwise, anger can hurt people. Anger can cause us to lash out, it can ruin relationships, it can tear apart community. If not addressed will linger and fester, and it will ultimately destroy us.

We should not cultivate anger.

Some people feel anger more than others

I think this is important to note. Do you tend towards anger? I do, and so it can seem so natural that I don’t even realise I am angry. That’s a bit scary.

The first step to with anger is recognising it.

That said, while anger is a huge part of some people’s response to chronic illness, I think we all experience it to a certain degree.

I almost think we should.

Can you watch someone being held captive by a body that is crumbling away, and not be even a little annoyed?

In the face of tragedy, I find it easy to get angry.

3 things that helped me cope with my anger:

Growing up with a chronically ill mum, I often struggled with anger. Yet when my younger sister was diagnosed with a brain tumour, I didn’t react with the same bone-shaking fury. I think this change was for a few reasons, some of which are outlined below.

I can’t tell you how to get rid of your anger, but I can tell you the 3 things that helped me.

1. I asked (and answered!) the big question

Why am I angry?

Who am I really angry at?

For me, it was God.

2. I realised it was a big thing to be angry at the Living God.

It’s a huge, huge undertaking. It’s not very wise, and I think we need to ask ourselves whether it is right. Gazing for a while at the grandeur and splendour of God is a good way to put anger into perspective.

Awe at the immense impudence of my anger set me on the path to dealing with it.

3. I asked myself what I really believed…

…about God and suffering. Did I truly believe that all things are part of His plan – even inappropriate responses, lack of support and watching sickness?

For me, my anger existed partly because I was refusing to believe that God cared.

It's a big thing to be angry at God after a chronic illness diagnosis. Use extreme care.-

How to ultimately cope with anger after a chronic illness diagnosis

I’d like to say your anger will eventually pass, that you’ll just grow out of it, or that it will disappear if you ‘vent’ enough – but in my experience anger has to be dealt with first. What, then, is the ultimate antidote for anger?

Again, I have a preferred response. I’d like to say ‘logic’will fix everything because anger is (often) irrational. That if you genuinely answer the questions above and consider your beliefs, your fury will simply defuse.

But I’m not sure, in this sinful world, that this is the case. Rather, I think the only true antidote to anger is (active, practicing, carefully chosen) ‘love’.

Love from God for us – expressed in Jesus.

Love for God from us – expressed in our willingness to trust Him with our loved one’s suffering.

Where there is perfect love there is no fear, no anger and no lies. No, ‘God should have prevented this’ or ‘I don’t deserve that’ or ‘they ought…we ought…’

When we grow towards love, we grow away from anger, because they cannot coexist. Click to tweet!

When we grow towards love, we grow away from anger, because they cannot coexist. This is how to cope with anger after a diagnosis.

// Did you find yourself angry after the diagnosis?

Did you try and deal with it, or choose to ignore it?

Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

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