7 Ways To Combat The Anger & Self-Neglect That Happens During A Family Crisis

Advice for the family member who is everyone's "anchor" when times get hard.

Woman in a chaotic vortex, in meditative pose irynakhabliuk, Nomadsoul1 | Canva 

Grief bites viciously and leaves gaping holes in your heart. Grief howls so loud at night that it sends shivers down your spine. The file cabinets of memories fly open. Slideshow flashes of a lifetime spent with your loved one — who died — torturing you on an endless loop. Useless logic becomes an annoying nuisance, and a restless soul is trapped in the shell of your body while roars of agony echo through every cell.


Perhaps you're like me. From an early age, the family anchor everyone turns to in times of crisis.

My mom, unconscious in the kitchen with dad screaming, "Do something!" I had to solve it, somehow take care of it. It was a valuable lesson. I learned to handle crises and thrive in the midst, and never mind that I was only five.

53 now and Papa, my father-in-law, whom I’ve known for most of my life, passed away yesterday. I have to "Do something!", so I am planning his funeral.

Life is a messy adventure. Happiness and great sorrow inevitably co-exist. Who set this universe up to work this way?

If it’s some god, then at times like this, I am furious at them for being sadistic, yet I still beg for salvation. It’s as if we are witnesses and participants at a wicked party, and there is no way around human suffering. The only way is to go through it.


So how do you take care of others when you, yourself, are hurting inside? Deeply.

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Here's how to survive during a crisis & not lose your mind.

1. In times of crisis, know whether you're the one to step up — or step back

Your "inner child," the child you once were, may have been helpless and confused and struggled to survive, but you're an adult now who's experienced life and knows what to do and where to find answers. One answer is whether you can step up during a crisis or step back. If you have to step back, you need to let people know and set a boundary.


If you agree to step up during a crisis but are angry at people for depending on you, you are not being kind — even if you have the best intentions. In a way, it's like you're holding your family hostage and responsible for your grudge against them.

Instead, try to claim the power of the person you've grown up to be smart, resourceful, capable, and independent. It’s a privilege to be there for the people you care about most. Action gives pain a purpose; it channels it away from your inflamed mind, even if it’s just for a moment. If you can find the action empowering, you won't be resentful.

If you are going to be resentful, don't agree to the tasks or the responsibilities, and take some time to heal so you can show up fully for the people around you.

Me? Today, I filled out paperwork for the funeral home and ordered catering for the post-funeral celebration of life. It’s been my honor.


2. Don't neglect your own needs.

While tending to others, are you including yourself in the circle of people you care about? If not, ask yourself why. Why would you neglect your needs, wants, and preferences?

Countless times throughout the day, I go outside and feel the sun on my skin. Or, I might have a super-yummy chocolate raspberry mousse with a cup of cappuccino while staring at a bird who stares back at me from the top branch of the hibiscus bush.

When you put your life on pause and allow yourself to feel and be, you’re loving and respecting yourself.

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3. Before saying yes ask, "Does this work for me?"

Run requests from others by yourself first before committing. You can respect yourself to validate your needs before offering help to others.


As I was planning the funeral service, my aunt called. "Can you pick me up from the airport?" she asked. "No, sorry, I cannot," I replied. "Too much on my plate today."

As I said it, a wave of guilt hit my solar plexus, but I reminded myself my aunt is a woman capable of figuring out how to get from the airport to the hotel.

When you look at others through a lens of empowerment and self-control, you project those qualities onto them, which enables them to feel empowered and in control. This lets solutions and answers appear from the whirlpool of consciousness itself.

As for my aunt, I knew she was asking me out of habit and would call for an Uber instead.


4. If feel overwhelmed, ask for help and be open to receiving it.

Letting go of control and perfectionism allows you to trust that other people are also capable humans.

Like today, I asked my other teenage son to get plastic plates and utensils. I gave him a specific list of the kinds I wanted because delegating tasks also requires giving the person all the information they will need.

I asked my sister-in-law to clean Papa’s apartment before people came for the post-funeral brunch. I didn't let myself supervise the cleaning and organizing process which would have been counterproductive, and not open to accepting the help I asked for. That freed me up to go to the cemetery and finalize the funeral arrangements.

However, the project manager in me did call her several times to check how things were going.


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5. Communicate your needs

Those around you need to know how to talk and behave around you at times of severe distress.

You're not telling people what to do or controlling them. Instead, this is you asking politely from a place of sincere need.

"Your TV is too loud," I tell my youngest, who was watching Godzilla. "Can you please turn it down, as loud noises annoy me right now? I appreciate your understanding."

"Can you please talk to me nicely?" I ask my oldest, who can be abrupt at times. "I appreciate a calm, kind voice. Thank you, honey."

It is also important to stay away from people you have a low tolerance for. Though they might be well-meaning, there are times we can't deal with everyone during times of heightened stress.


Things they say can rub you the wrong way even when they usually pass by you without a thought. Being aware of this dynamic and keeping your distance will help preserve your emotional strength for more important things.

Sometimes, you might need to hang up that phone and blame it on a bad connection. That’s what I did.

6. Learn to break your day into segments.

Even with a ton of grief around your neck, life needs tending to. Bills need to be paid, kids dropped off and picked up from school, groceries purchased and food prepared.

What I do is to live my day one fragment, one task at a time, and designate hours of the day for specific activities. I remember to stay in the now.


"I am shopping right now, I am unloading groceries right now, I am making a sandwich right now."

Between 9:00 and 11:00, I’ll be writing. After 11:00, I’ll take a bath. Tomorrow morning after I work out, I’ll get the boys' suits ready. At 1:30, we will leave for the funeral.

If my mind gets overloaded, I tell myself I am not there yet. When my mind overreacts, "We need to empty Papa’s apartment within a week," it shouts at me. Mind, not now, I tell it. We will address that on Saturday after the funeral.

7. Attend to your stress

Stress can amass into knotty rocks in the shoulders and neck.

To manage stress, I am getting a massage on Monday morning and taking an Epson salt bath with lavender aromatherapy.


As you love your body through hard times, you help your mind cope with trauma. Stress can push us to feel we’re strong, independent, and need no one, but we’re human, and human suffering is real.

Just as a fractured bone shatters your body with intense sensations of pain, a blow from emotional distress can send an avalanche of broken glass down your nerves. It is real and needs your attention.

Remember, you are not alone. Someone’s solid hand is ready to save you. Find someone you trust, or seek therapy if you feel stuck.


For me, I talk to my sister. She is my sarcastic venting partner who is always ready with a good dose of gossip.

You can create a help network by reaching out to trusted people and finding other resources. You deserve it after a lifetime of offering it to everyone else. Then, you can offer compassion, appreciation, and acknowledgment to the VIP person in your life – yourself.

Yes, it’s worth it. Life is worth living and celebrating, grieving, crying, suffering, and rejoicing, life is worth all of it.

Why do I say this? Because I'll take the pain of grieving instead of trading it for a life spent not knowing my father-in-law, Papa.

His words echo now from another dimension and sustain me through grief. My mind translates every memory that surrounds me into his jokes. His sharp humor infuses my heart with welcomed lightness. He always chose positivity. His keen ability to always bounce back and love life and live it fully continues to be a true inspiration,


There is beauty. When you know that, even after the darkest night, the sun will shine and kiss your gaping wounds away, and the scars will heal – you just wait.

However long it takes, patiently wait, and know deep in your gut it’s the law of high and low, hot and cold, light and dark — the polarity of existence at work.

You can handle life. You were born capable and equipped for this mysterious mission.

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Katherine Agranovich, Ph.D., is a Medical Hypnotherapist and Holistic Consultant. She is the author of Tales of My Large, Loud, Spiritual Family.