Grief & Loss After the Election

After the historic election of 2016, where underdog businessman Donald Trump upset Hillary Clinton for the presidency of the United States, many people are in distress. There have been large anti-Trump protests of thousands of people in major cities across the country chanting, “Not my president.”

Large groups of people were grieving yesterday, trying to come to terms with the failure to elect the first woman president. How do you cope with grief and loss after a contentious election like this?

People are upset and we can detect their dismay through analytics on the traffic to Psych Central. Traffic to our 5 Stages of Grief & Loss page was up over 210 percent the day after the election. It is trending higher today as well, as more and more people try and cope with the loss they feel.

Our most popular page today is the article I wrote the day before the election, Healing After the Election.

A loss can be a devastating, frustrating, and even scary experience. We all experience loss in our lives, but few of us have ever experienced the kind of loss that happened on election day. Not only did the country elect an “outsider” — someone with no political experience whatsoever — but they rejected a seasoned politician who would’ve been the first female leader of our nation.

Women seem to be experiencing the loss more strongly than most men. This may be partially due to the historical significance of electing the first woman president. But it’s probably also due to the deeply offensive attitudes, behaviors, and words expressed by the president-elect, Donald Trump, throughout his life. To live under a Trump presidency is downright scary to many, many women (and some men as well).

Stages of Grief & Coping with Loss

Coping with a loss like this will not be easy for many people. But make no mistake about it — this is a significant loss for many people, just as significant as losing a pet, a job, or a relationship.1 Going through the five stages of grief takes time, so you should be patient with yourself (or a loved one) as you give yourself time to experience what this means to you and your life:

  1. Denial and Isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of the stages.

It may also help to disengage from news on social media, and political updates in general for a few days. Take a social media or news mini-vacation; you won’t miss much and it’ll help you recover from the political overload so many of us are feeling today. And remember, you can’t trust everything you read online. For instance, Facebook has such a large and serious problem with fake news websites, it’s not clear Facebook can be trusted to deliver any type of accurate news stories any longer.

Some people find that action helps address the grief that they feel. If that’s the case, join a peaceful protest or write down what you’re feeling in a journal or blog. Talk to others who share your point of view in a safe, private environment, so that your words won’t be misunderstood or used against you in the future.

Healing from the election and this political process will come in due time. But it will take time, for all of us, to heal fully from what we as a nation just went through. Let’s be patient with one another so that we can come together again one day, as a country united.

Footnotes:

  1. So please, don’t tell someone to just “Get over it.” That is dismissive of their feelings and not helpful. []