When you think about it, it hasn’t just all been barbecues and construction working for Dean that whole year without Sam. Sometime through that entire year he had to cope with not only the loss of Sam, but the sudden disappearance of Castiel and the forced separation of himself and Bobbie while trying to respect his thought-to-be deceased brothers final wishes.
You could say Dean had a choice in picking whether he wanted to honor Sam’s request, but through the evidence of his devotion to his brother, I don’t believe he had that luxury. It was his one way of staying close to Sam after he died, by living the life Sam had wanted for him…but Dean never states he truly wants this life for himself.
Now let’s recap to Swan Song and summarize what Dean has to deal with alone for a year.
- The death of his brother
- The loss of what could be called his best friend
- The loss of his only remaining father figure in his life
Those things are easier listed then really understood. The immensity of his grief and anger at that year was not shown in an explosion of rage in one heated moment because that isn’t how Dean acts. Dean seethes, keeping his rage and his pain bottled up for weeks, for months before he finally can’t hold it in anymore. But don’t take my word for it, look at Everybody Loves a Clown
. Dean represses the memory and the pain of his fathers death for two episodes before finally attacking the impala, which could even be symbolic of an attack on his father since the connection between the car and John.
When confronted with his impending death, Dean represses his fear until the tenth episode, Dream a Little Dream of Me
and when he finally does crack under the stress of his emotions, he attacks the dream representation of himself because this time it was his own choices and his own self loathing for being saved that drove him to sacrifice his life for Sam’s.
And now that cycle of repression and explosion have happened again in You Can’t Handle the Truth
where Dean releases all the pain of the loss of Sam, Castiel and Bobbie (and just recently Lisa and Ben) unto his brother, the person who all that pain can be tied to. If Sam hadn’t died none of this would have happened, and as selfish as the thought is, in the heaaaaat of the moment, Dean would disregard that logic.
After the catharis is found, Dean has always shown that he then is willing to open up and accept his brothers compassion (regarding his father’s death and his own) and now we can only wait and see what he will open up to after the events of You Can’t Handle the Truth.