Social Grief

Now What?  The Presidential Election has happened and either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton have been elected—unless it was VERY close and recounts have been requested which will prolong the result a few weeks.  Some of us are going to be happy and believe our country has made a great decision and the others will feel very differently.

I wonder if we recognize the grief process at work in such an election?  If your candidate happened to lose, your grief may be in direct proportion to how much, emotionally, you had invested in your candidate.  And this particular election it seems that many more people invested much more than in previous years.  

And IF your candidate did, in fact, lose then you ought to be asking yourself the question, “Now What?”  How do I move forward as a good citizen?  How do I commit my support to the good of my country in light of my disappointment?  

I suggest you begin by dealing with your grief, first.  Elizabeth Kubler Ross was the first to study the “stages of grief”.  She suggested that most of us experience 5 Stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  These stages have been improved upon over the years, but her premise is still sound.  The loss of one of these candidates will be similar to a death in some ways for those who are devoted to that candidate.  

Let’s imagine you support candidate “A” and it turns out that Candidate “B” wins.  You may hear yourself say on election night, “I just can’t believe it . . .” That’s denial. “What could those other people have been thinking to vote for Candidate B??  Don’t they know they’ve made a mistake?”  That’s Anger.  “Things will never be the same again—we are going down the tubes.”  That’s depression.  “I’m going to do everything I can to be sure Candidate B is a one-term candidate.  I’m going to start working right now to see to it.”  That’s bargaining.  “The election is over, we have a country to live in and support and make better.  I don’t agree with the outcome of the election, but I am—first and foremost—a citizen in the most advanced democracy in history.  The welfare of my country is more important than my allegiance to a candidate—it’s time to get on with it.”  That’s acceptance.

I hope we can all get to the acceptance stage sooner, rather than later—for all of our sake.

And by the way, this same reality happens in churches all the time.  A vote in the Administrative Board goes the other way.  A pastor we loved was not universally loved and a change is made.  A social issue is discussed in a Sunday School class and people find themselves on opposite sides.

Learning to deal with grief may be the most important life skill any of us can have because grief and loss are the constant reality all human beings must face to varying degrees.  Our capacity to deal creatively with grief is a true hallmark of faith.