Healing Post Election
The past week has been a difficult time for many Americans. No matter which party drew your allegiance during this election, there is likely a good deal of healing that needs to happen for you to feel whole again. During the process of deciding who our next governing President would be, a divide has been created across the country, in our communities, and even in our own homes. Conflicting ideals meant to represent such a diverse population often cause this type of hurt. The idea that we must all agree is a high expectation to place on any group. In a nation as large and encompassing as the United States of America, that expectation becomes impossible to achieve.
This is in part why we see protesting happening across our great country. The disagreement is complicated to resolve, and will not be laid to rest immediately. Those who disagree with the election outcome must first process their shock before they can move from the denial phase of their own grieving process. That is what many in our country are working through right now, grief. Many people are beginning their grieving process at this moment. Not only those who felt the other candidate was a better choice, but grief that our country is so divided right now. Grief that the relationships they had once leaned on for support are beginning to break apart. Although many see this part in the grief process as futile, it is necessary. Before one can begin to move through the following stages of grief, they have to realize that they need to and that their denial has not changed the circumstances.
Acknowledgment frequently heightens a persons stress even further. One way our stress is heightened during these times of conflict is to focus on our fear. We get stuck in our own nightmares, replaying them again and again, until we feel they are catastrophic and imminent. This can make us lash out in desperation, even at those we care for. Social media has been filled with this kind of reaction fueling the fires of disagreement towards the boiling point of rage It can break apart families and friendships that had once stood so solidly. The desire to scream can feel overwhelming. This step is anger, and though many wish they could skip past it or simply don’t understand it, it is necessary to move on. Don’t worry, anger does not last forever. Eventually your carefree and kind friend / family member will return to their pre-election persona, but only after their anger has been expressed.
Bargaining, or as I call it, the “If Only” stage is another important aspect of grief. This stage likely sounds like “If only the democrats/republicans had done…” or “If only I had done…” Trying to figure out how and why things happened is what people in this stage struggle with. Now that the election has ended and people have acknowledged that it is over and gotten angry at the outcome, they will now begin to look for how it turned out in this way and possibly what they can do differently in the future. Remember people are not only grieving an electoral decision. There are layers to the grief that many American’s are feeling right now. Some may struggle with seeing their fellow Americans the same way they had, some may be grieving the election process itself, while others grieve the once comforting relationships that now seem toxic. Whatever the reasons, let this stage play out.
Depression frequently follows the bargaining phase, however remember these stages are fluid and do not occur in order. Feelings of overwhelming sadness are a natural response to any kind of loss. The elections are likely to cause just such a reaction. Many people see this stage as something to be fixed or a need to help someone feel better sooner. Rushing the sadness of loss does not fix it, nor do the sufferers feel better by brushing over it. With loss of any kind we often feel helpless to make changes or hopeless that anything we do will make a difference. These feelings are magnified during this time causing us to experience depression. These feelings lessen as time passes (if they don’t please reach out to one of our Noyau therapists who can work with you through this) as a sense of purpose returns. Let those around you be sad if they are sad. Don’t try to talk them out of it, or tell them it is silly. Instead hug them, support them, and let them know you are there for them.
Eventually we find acceptance in this new reality. People, especially Americans, are extremely resilient. No matter the loss we have always found a way to grow and to live on. This stage, which is an ideal outcome, it not always as easy to go through as it sounds. The previous stages often reappear here. You may gain a measure of acceptance and then feel pulled back towards anger, bargaining, denial, or depression. This is normal and should be expected. The greatest focus here is to stay in the moment, and allow yourself to heal from these past hurts. This may mean rebuilding trust with friends and family, establishing healthy boundaries on social media, and taking necessary steps to ensure you feel safe and secure in your surroundings.
Remember that this process is just that, a process. It takes time and should not be rushed. Many Americans spent 8 years in the grieving process of the last election and others the 8 years before that.. We can not expect our country to heal this divide in a matter of days or even months. The most important thing we can do is to come together in our compassion and humanity to repair the relationships that have been damaged and rebuild trust in one another. We can, and we shall, grow stronger as a community and a country.