How do you get over anger at siblings because of grief and loss.

My parents died 2 months apart and alone because my siblings would not make the trip to see them while in hospice. I couldn’t be there 24/7. I am haunted that my parents died alone.
Asked by Marshall

Thank you for reaching out for support and for submitting your question. I am very sorry that you are currently experiencing difficulty and challenges in your life right now. And I am sorry for the loss of your parents.

There is a saying which seems like it might be appropriate in the scenario you are describing: “Resentments are like swallowing poison and expecting the other people to die.”

Resentments and anger are those ongoing feelings we hold towards others because of some injustice (often real but sometimes imagined). If we keep holding on to these types of emotions then eventually we find it harms not the other people, but ourselves. We might suffer emotionally and ultimately we can develop physical maladies, from chronic disease (heart disease, stroke, digestive issues, hypertension, etc.) to chronic aches and pain. Also, it can lead you to start responding to neutral persons with a spirit that is irrational or impulsive – which can end up damaging personal and professional relationships.

Yet, how do you let this all go?

First, anger and resentment are usually secondary emotions. In other words, there are some other emotions which are underlying (fear, pain, hurt, vulnerability, etc.) and the anger and resentment are just what comes up to the surface and can be what is displayed externally. But there is usually something else beneath all that.

In this case you did have something happen and it caused you upset and pain. You did not choose for your siblings to act that way. Nor did you choose for your parents to be in those circumstances. There is, however, something you do get to choose in all of this – how you will feel and respond. You get to decide that you will not hold a grudge and that you will be forgiving of your siblings. What’s your alternative? You can certainly choose to continue clinging to anger. But who does that ultimately impact? They will in all probability go on living their lives while it will be you, in fact, who suffers the consequences of the anger. In some ways, you become a slave to them and all those emotions. It becomes a sort of emotional, spiritual, and mental bondage. Can you wish it were all different and that they had showed up? Of course. But that cannot be changed at this point. What you can change, what you can control, is how it is going to make you feel going forward. You do not need to forget the act, but you can set yourself free from the hurt it has caused.

Overcoming resentments and anger does not necessarily happen overnight. It is more of a process that requires some patience and practice. You might need to keep reminding yourself that carrying these feelings and emotions is a heavy burden that you yourself are forced to carry around – and that you have the option of putting them down.

It is okay to feel some anger and resentment. But then perhaps you do something different with the feelings instead of holding on to them. You can try journaling. This is one tool which will allow you to get all the thoughts and emotions out. You can seek support from a trusted friends or another relative that you are close to. Is there an individual with whom you could sit and have a conversation with about all of this? Communicate with them what you have been going through. Also, some type of physical activity is another way of discharging some built up anger and resentment. It might mean going for a walk or a run, or playing a sport.

And while it might be challenging, consider changing the way you treat your siblings. At the moment you want to unleash your fury towards them. That is understandable. But it won’t change the past. And it likely will just cause further damage and problems. So what if instead you displayed kindness? Yes, it could be difficult at first. Acting with love, kindness, and compassion towards them will potentially do something quite interesting – it might, over time, transform how they act towards you. Does continuing to live forever with an angry, embittered dynamic help anyone? What would changing the relationships so that love and kindness eventually predominate mean? You cannot change what happened. They cannot go back and change it. But can you perhaps be the catalyst here? Could you show kindness towards them, which could potentially change how they live their lives in future? We certainly cannot predict outcomes in this case. Yet again, though, you get to choose. Be angry towards them? Be kind? Which will leave you personally feeling better in the end?

Unless you have the unique ability to travel into the past to make things look different, it comes down to deciding that you have to accept things as they are. It is as good as it will ever get. You do not have to like it. Letting go will help you release pain. Letting go allows you to redirect your attention and energy into what you can control. Also, you can make choices going forward that might influence your siblings positively – although there are no guarantees with this as we never get to control anyone else’s choices in the end.

You have been through a lot and it can be difficult to process and navigate all of this on your own. If you cannot locate good support in your personal life, then it could worth it to think about speaking with a therapist. In the therapy room you will have the chance to explore all the feelings you are going through – the ones you are currently aware of, as well as some you perhaps are not (those one which could be hidden below the surface). A therapist can partner with you to help you learn to cope with all of this. And together you can come up with some good, individualized strategies that will help you move forward in a more positive direction.