Why It’s Okay — Necessary, Even — To Sit With Your Grief & Anger Right Now

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
This morning we woke up to an America divided between the absolutely elated and the terribly depressed. This isn't the first election from which half the country walked away disappointed, but for so many reasons — the particular vitriol of this campaign, and the very high stakes for some of the most crucial issues of our time — the divide feels larger than ever. And whether or not you're bummed about the results of the election, that division is seriously distressing.

Many of us are feeling totally shocked by the results, says meditation expert and therapist Ralph de la Rosa. "It’s the kind of shock I’ve only experienced when somebody I know has died." Indeed, following what looks to be a victory in the popular vote for Hillary Clinton but a loss of the electoral college, many of us are experiencing feelings we associate with bereavement — denial, bargaining, anger — and we're not quite sure what to do with that.

Whatever you're feeling, it's essential that you don't run from those emotions or try to push them down — no matter how many people scold you about staying positive. It's okay, and in fact, necessary, to give yourself permission to lean into that sadness (or blind rage) in order to move on from it. "Just because we push things away doesn’t mean they go away," de la Rosa says. Instead, he explains, "We have to be in this moment with all of the feelings that are present right now."

At the same time, try to recognize that this is simply how you feel right now, in this moment, rather than immediately jumping to imagine the worst-case scenario(s) in the future. "That’s natural, but we need to acknowledge that’s fantasy," de la Rosa explains. "We need to stay in reality, and reality is what’s happening right now." Our feelings of disappointment, anger, and fear are enough without the debilitating worry and stress about something that hasn’t even happened yet, in other words. His advice in the face of such uncertainty: "Stay as close to now as you possibly can."

As far as moving on from this moment, for those of us feeling loss, it might be helpful to take cues from the five states of grief — which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It's normal to feel all of these things in some form before we finally can come to a place of acceptance. Everyone deals with loss differently, and even if no one in your immediate circle of friends and loved ones seems to be as bummed as you are by the election, try to remember that you are not alone in any feelings of frustration.

De la Rosa adds that there are ways to turn your grief into productive energy as well. There's the kind of anger, for example, that's "a little bit blind" and "only wants to lash out," he explains. But then there's also "a very wise form of anger that is very mobilizing that motivates us to act with intention." For instance, Facebook sent out a notification today inviting users to get in touch with their new representatives. "That's one place we can go with our anger," says de la Rosa.

For those of you who aren't so disappointed by the election results, de la Rosa advises to "acknowledge that this is just like the traumatic loss of a loved one for the rest of us." Expressing empathy (rather than gloating) is one way to encourage an atmosphere of cooperation, which is something we could all use right now.
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