I originally wrote this piece for the Creative Grief Studio and wanted to share it here as well. Post-election many people found themselves unexpectedly grieving over the outcome. As will happen, there was also judgement about the validity of that grief. Ironically, I saw examples within the widowed community. People who have been told - much to their anger - how to grieve were, in turn, telling others how to grieve, or not to grieve or to “get over it” after two days. Just stop. Trying to control the grief of others does not bring us together.
Escaping the news of the recent U.S. election is difficult even for those outside of the country. This campaign season was particularly divisive and many now find themselves moved in unanticipated ways. Political events and changes can have unexpected meaning and the resulting grief and anxiety can be very real.
No matter what outcome we may have thought to be “right” it’s important to let those who are struggling feel what they feel without shame. If you find yourself in a position to support others who may feel grief over these recent events here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Remember that people are grieving. They are assessing a real situation and experiencing a real human process so they can find their agency, and figure out what steps to take next.
- Allow them to feel what they feel on their own timeline. Rushing someone through is not helpful, nor possible.
- Consider how the hierarchy of loss may be impacting their experience. Are others minimizing their experience because they perceive this as an insignificant loss or not a loss at all? Are they doing it to themselves?
- Avoid phrases that can shame people who are grieving. “Negative thoughts are bad” or “change your thoughts, change your life” clichés are oversimplifications of complex philosophical ideas, and when used in shorthand ways like this, they often come off as oppressive.
- Recognize that this grief may feel familiar because it has echoes of other griefs we’ve had; old grief may be triggered through the physical experiences of this new situation.
- Remember there is a diversity of meaning in each person’s grief. Those who are grieving aren’t necessarily grieving the same thing as their lives may be impacted differently by potential changes. One person’s concern may be anticipated loss of health insurance, while another’s is a fractured relationship with someone they love, and still another may be dealing with the anxiety of their children when they feel they do not have answers themselves. Do not assume you know what someone is feeling. Exercise curiosity.
- If you are feeling grief too, helping others can be a challenge. Don’t forget to tend yourself.
- When they are ready, guide your clients in finding their agency. What actions can they take to feel their grief and use the resulting meaning if they choose to do so? How can they take care of themselves now and going forward?
Here are some ways that others have begun to find their resilience and resourcefulness. They are dealing with grief and their emotions in ways that are meaningful for them that range from simple and local to more expansive. There is no, one, single, right way.
- Self-care, self-care, self-care
- Attend to practical matters as needed such as contacting financial advisor, healthcare broker, etc. as well as things like staying hydrated, taking naps, touching base with friends and loves.
- Share messages of love and support with others
- Engage in social media less or in a different way right now
- Learn more about how to show outward demonstrations of support
- Make donations, no matter how small, to organizations that align with your values
- Boycott companies that do not align with your values
- Participate in peaceful demonstrations as you are able
- Join letter writing campaigns or become otherwise politically active
These are just a few of the ways clients might find their resourcefulness, or maybe these are inspirations for entirely new ideas they create themselves. In the Articles We Loved section you will find more suggestions related to this topic.
There are many ways for us and our clients to engage with this kind of grief experience and take meaningful action to live forward. Shame has no place in it. “Get over it” is not a helpful response.