Long after this pandemic pass as we seek healing, as a nation we have to deal with pending unresolved anger due to the human losses we have encountered. There is a sense of frustration and anger breeding globally among the majority of the communities who have lost loved ones, and is still losing them due to Covid-19.
Culturally, within the African context, it’s natural to care for those in our communities and our families particularly when they are ill. Caregiving is a process that we readily embrace. However, the complexities around this pandemic disenfranchised us from this caregiving role, which in turn creates frustration and anger among communities and families, more so when loved ones’ lives are lost. When a death occurs, many family members feel that if an appointed family member could have been afforded visitation rights at respective hospitals, they could have offered additional support to their loved ones during their critical stage, which could have perhaps changed the outcome.
These sentiments are perhaps warranted especially since we learn daily through media coverage that health workers are working under tremendous pressure because of the increased numbers of hospitalised people. Families’ anger is directed mostly towards health workers and those in decision-making roles pertaining to the care and treatment regulations of Covid-19 patients. Important to note is that although families’ sentiments around exclusion from caring for their hospitalised loved ones are valid, and would elicit anger; anger is also a normal emotional response when we are dealing with death and grief. According to Kubler-Ross stages of grief, anger speaks to our pain felt. It is further perpetuated by the restrictions around funeral arrangements, such as not being able to bring home our loved ones for the last time prior to the funeral day, which usually offered some families the opportunity to bid farewell by viewing the body in some cultures. Therefore, as a nation, addressing anger is necessary as we heal, because unresolved anger can lead to mental ill health.
To address grief-related anger, the following coping mechanism are encouraged:
• Identify where the anger stems from. Are you angry with a person, – yourself or others, a higher being or the situation?
• Explore other difficult emotions, such as sadness or fear, because the anger could be your reluctance to accept that you have to live without your loved one.
• Feel your anger – allow yourself to lean into the pain you feel, as suppressing it will only extend the grief.
• Express your anger – make time and find a safe place where you can express your anger in a healthy manner. For instance, throwing stones in nature, journaling your thoughts, screaming in your car or crying, using a punching bag, relaxing techniques like yoga or meditation.
• Explain your anger – when you experience an anger outburst, explain yourself and apologise. People are usually understanding and forgiving.
• Seek professional help – talk to a therapist, a pastor or join an anger or grief support group.
• Acknowledging others’ anger – at a state level acknowledging others’ anger and providing answers through explaining the complexities with compassion and empathy is important. Although death is inevitable, it’s someone else parent, sibling, cousin, aunt or uncle, grandparent and child.
Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal.
Only when we truly heal can we forgive and reconcile as a nation.