This election season has been a roller coaster of emotions. Whether you voted for the winning candidate in this election or not, we all have some grieving to do.
As you read through this article, remind yourself that we're grieving the election season, not just the election results. The reality is, even if your candidate won, this election season is something you probably still need to work through.
I'm going to go over the five stages of grief and how those will look in this particular situation. You don't have to experience them in any particular order, and you can experience some of them more than once.
You might think that this election season hasn't had any affect on you. It is possible that this election season has had little to no affect on you, but I want you to consider a few possibilities.
1. Has this election affected how you interact with or view other people? Has it changed some of your relationships, maybe not for the better? You may need to grieve the loss of good relationships, or you may need to find a way to repair some of those relationships. Don't deny that there is an issue; it will only make the relationship harder to repair in the long run.
2. Has this election season or the result of the election made you upset? It's alright to feel angry, upset, hurt, and disappointed about the direction our country is going or even just about how the election season went about.
3. Are you still feeling unsettled about this election? Like it's not over? I've got news for everyone, even if the winning candidate does become president, we have been promised weeks if not months of "will he still be? will the results change?". It's enough to let your heart rise and fall repeatedly regardless of which candidate you support.
I think many of us feel unsettled because we want to believe this season is over. It has been stressful for all of us. But we're also experiencing this phenomenon that is stretching out the election season and keeping us from being able to move on. If this is you, don't deny the stress you're experiencing. Be willing to talk about it with safe people, or see a counselor to discuss it. And know that you're not alone.
Guess what? You can be angry even if your candidate won. You can be angry at your candidate, the other candidates, your opinionated mother-in-law, your patriotic neighbor, or your apathetic cousin. You can be angry at specific people, or you can just be angry at reality. And you can even be angry with yourself. Here's a few things to consider:
1. Do you regret your vote? Maybe you regret how you voted, when you voted, or not voting at all. Maybe you regret your participation during the election season. Maybe you were the family member that couldn't have rational conversations with anyone, and now you're angry with yourself for being so bull-headed. Start by forgiving yourself and giving yourself some grace. You are only human. If you've hurt specific people, take the time to apologize. And finally, spend some time talking to God about why you reacted to the election the way you did, and ask for His grace. He has plenty to give you.
2. Are there people in your life that have made this season unbearable? There are people in my life like this for sure. I've had to be careful how I spend time on social media in the last few months. And even now with the results out it's only getting worse. Acknowledge your anger and spend some time asking God to help soften your heart.
I am in love with this definition of bargaining:
By bargaining, the person is willing to concede the outcome, but attempts to do so by squeezing a few more moments of “normal” out of the turmoil that pounds on life's door. The individual is clinging to the threads of hope, however thin and worn the fabric may be. (source)
So now the question is, are you trying to squeeze out "a few more moments of normal?"
1. Are you trying to squeeze the last bits of life out of hurting relationships? Maybe you're accepting that your relationship was damaged but you want to get a few last things out of it before saying it's over. Don't put off addressing hurt relationships. You'll just hurt yourself and the other person even more.
2. Are you asking God for something different? Maybe you're praying for a different outcome to the election, or you're asking God to pull some strings to make other things in your life go right. Maybe you're disappointed in God and think He owes you something. News flash: He doesn't.
3. Are you acknowledging how much the election season hurt you, but trying to cover that by being happy about the outcome of the election? You're still hurt, love. This is a season that has hurt all of us. Don't try to cover up the pain you've experienced. Accept it and it will run it's course.
You might think you're not prone to depression, or that any depression you're experiencing right now has nothing to do with the election or its results. Consider the following:
1. Has this election caused you to speak less? Have you adjusted your demeanor? Are there certain parties that you are now afraid to speak your mind around? We've already talked about how the election might have affected your relationships. As we are relational people, that can have a pretty negative affect on you as an individual. Focus on the relationships you feel safe in, and spend more time with those people.
2. Are you cocooning, attempting to distract yourself from feelings of disappointment, shame, regret or judgement? Do you feel a bit less like yourself? Depression is a normal part of grief and it's important to let yourself experience it, but it's also important that you don't get lost in it. Spend time with other (supportive) people, go outside, exercise and eat well, and focus on the things that you enjoy.
If you're still experiencing symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor or a counselor.
I think most of us are familiar with the concept of acceptance, but let me give you a basic idea of what it might look like:
1. Acknowledging that this election season did happen. It did affect you, your relationships, and your day-to-day life, and that's OK.
2. Recognizing the toll this election has had on you emotionally and may continue to have on you.
3. Preparing for the holidays. (Why on earth do the holidays have to be right after an election? There's nothing like being trapped in a room with people that you're related to by blood but barely ever agree with.) If you'd like more help with this one, I have a great article that will help you prepare.
A few more things before we walk away from this discussion. I want to give you a biblical perspective on the election:
1. No man or woman will ever be the hope that this country needs. They're only human.
2. Everyone in a position of authority has been allowed there by God. The outcome of this election is not a surprise to Him.
3. It's four years in light of an eternity. Though it's important to vote and participate in elections, don't make them your eternity. They will disappoint you.
With Love Always,