by Peggy Sweeney The Sweeney Alliance
If you choose to use anger in a positive fashion, it can be the driving force behind saving lives.
For those of us in the emergency response professions, we are always saddened to learn about the line of duty death of a firefighter, EMS person, or police officer especially if they were a member of our department or someone who was a very close friend.
I do not doubt that each one of us, in our own way, tries to cope with a variety of thoughts and feelings when we hear the news. The closer you are to the situation, the deeper and more profound the feelings. Your department may have experienced a similar line of duty death in the past. With this recent death, you may find yourself reliving the memories of that past tragedy over and over again in your mind. Many of the feelings you thought were buried deep inside of you may be slowly inching their way back into your mind and heart. Depending on the type of incident that caused the death, I would suspect that some of you may find that anger is the most predominant emotion. Rip-roaring, full-blown ANGER!
What do we do with this thing called anger that seems to consume our every waking moment? How do we handle the reality of the death after the initial shock wears off? We may find ourselves so angry that we take our anger out on others, yell, scream, or even throw a chair across the room! How do we cope with anger when it rears its ugly self again when we participate in the funeral service? The faces of their spouse and children, or their mother and father, brothers and sisters of these fallen heroes as they are laid to rest? The anger only increases as our senses become aware that, in the days and weeks to come, those who grieve must try to come to grips with the devastation that has turned their seemingly normal lives upside-down? Our anger over these deaths will continue to mount as we watch the row upon row of grieving firefighters who will come to pay their respects for their fallen brother or sister. We question why. We find ourselves trying to place blame. We want to lash out and get even. But in the end, what can we do with all this anger? How do we bring some semblance of normalcy back into our lives?
One thing about anger, we have choices on how to deal with it. First, let me begin by saying that anger is a normal, healthy reaction. It is one of many emotions and feelings we have; such as, happiness, guilt, loneliness, and joy. It’s what we do with this anger that can turn it into a positive outcome or a negative ordeal. It is up to us to decide what approach we will take and what effect we will allow this anger to have on ourselves.
Secondly, and contrary to popular belief, drugs and alcohol do NOT relieve anger permanently. Oh, we may think that drinking until we are in a stupor or consuming mind-altering drugs will provide us with a euphoria that will wipe away the bitterness and gut-wrenching pain that the anger brings with it, but I’m here to tell you they won’t! Upon awakening from the temporary fog that the drugs or alcohol induce, anger will merely smack us right squarely between the eyes again. It’s still there; haunting our dreams and clouding our decisions and, if we let it, ruling our lives. If we stuff it inside our souls, it will only fester and cause untold damage to the goodness that is in our hearts.
Yes, it is ok to be angry. If you choose to use anger in a positive fashion, it can be the driving force behind saving lives in the future, getting protocols changed, and making a healthy impact on our well-being. I believe it is a key element that drives each and every one of us to be the BEST that we can be. It is the “little push” we all need every once in a while to get goals and dreams accomplished.
So… what are you going to do with your anger? Bury it again and try to pretend it doesn’t exist? Mask it with drugs and alcohol? Or vent it in positive ways that will bring a good change to yourself and those around you? It’s your choice.
Copyright Peggy Sweeney. All rights reserved.
About the Author: Peggy Sweeney is a mortician (retired) and bereavement educator and the president of The Sweeney Alliance. She has developed and taught countless workshops for coping with grief and trauma, including How to Understand Grief Seminars (HUGS) and the Grieving Behind the Badge program for emergency response professionals. She has reached out to her community through Halo of Love, a support group for bereaved parents, and Comfort and Conversation for bereaved adults and teens. She has written numerous award-winning articles and is the editor of the Journeys Through Grief Newsletters. Peggy is a member of the Comfort (TX) Volunteer Fire Department and a former EMT-B.