How to Handle Political Loss, Grief and Healing

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During the November 2016 elections in the US, the Democrats went through an emotionally harrowing experience they certainly had never envisioned in their entire political career.

A new comer, a political outsider and an underdog businessman in the name of Donald Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton to be the President of the USA.

The loss in Hillary Clinton’s camps was palpable. It was a tough night and many could not come to terms with the reality that America was not going to have it’s first female president. Some took to the streets to demonstrate.

Back in Kenya, this scenario is playing out right now after a hotly contested general election.

While one camp is celebrating and thanking God a million times, the other camp is in deep shock and mourning.

Questions are being asked on what exactly went wrong. The truth is that no amount of well thought out answers will satisfy the question.

This article is specifically and with utmost respect for the camp that is dealing with the election loss.

This is where a heavy cloud hangs. The weight of this cloud may have been made worse by the virtue that some of the grieving citizens could have been on the same trail back from the 2007, 2013 and now the 2017 political contests (not mentioning the feelings and thoughts around the credibility of the process then and now).

Inside the heavy cloud reside strong emotions of shock, sadness, anger, confusion, anxiety, betrayal and fear.

The kind of emotional investment that had been made towards the political coalition that lost counts heavily toward the feelings.

There was hope for a new industry, pride was at stake, the hope for new jobs, the dream to see certain geographical areas get new infrastructural systems, the hope of coming out of the bracket of “kudharauliwa” etc.Then all of a sudden all the hopes were crashed.

It is a painful experience and perhaps more painful than had been thought of before voting.

Psychologists have taught us about the process of grieving which has a number of phases: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

This cycle may sometime throw a grieving victim in more confusion especially when it seems like one is making both forward and backward steps in the process. Some of those grieving might be wondering exactly what “stage of grief” they’re at right now, and whether that means they’re closer to feeling better.

As a HR consultant I have seen this kind of emotional breakdown and anguish when engaging with employees who have lost their jobs. It is normally a tough time marred with lots of confusion which tries to rest on an unstable platform that unfortunately has no quick fixes to it.

I would like to share a few tips that would be of help to all those going through this rough patch of political loss.

The ultimate goal is to help all of us get restored and pick our lives from where we were before the elections. We must purpose to walk through this deep valley of darkness and emerge at the end of it with a sense of hope, strength, new resolve and healed souls.

To overcome this period you will need to do the following:

1. Seek healing at home

Kenyan politics has a way of creating battlefields in the most unlikely places on earth.

Could it be that you have a household that held a different political view and support from yours? Whether you are silent about it or not, this has a potential of aggravating your already wounded soul.

My humble advice would be that you start seeking healing by first making amends with your household.

Heal these personal wounds first so that you can have your immediate family support around you as you pursue other areas that need to be addressed as well.

Prior to the elections, you or your family member might have said things in the heat of an argument. Such things may be said out of frustration or anger.

Now is the time to apologize and forgive each other for such remarks and promise to treat each other with love and respect.

Don’t allow an electoral process to get into your heart to the point of destroying your family.

Once the family front is sorted, then you can look outward.

2. Seek healing with neighbours and workmates

Before the elections, you might have been quite over the roof with your preferred candidate (especially the presidential candidate) and party.

Your workmates and neighbours knew it all and may be in your arguments, you knowingly or unknowingly bruised some of them courtesy of your charged and passionate words.

You do not need to be apologetic for supporting your candidate and party. It was your right. However if you did go over the top or crossed the red line of respect, you should apologize to those you offended.

Doing so will go a long way to healing any hurt feelings at your workplace including yours thus creating a favorable environment that will foster your own healing and productivity.

The bold step of reaching out to others despite your loss, gives your heart the opportunity to hear and see the other side of life beyond the loss.

3. Re-engineer your life’s perspective

The emotional investment and expectations we have toward our preferred political candidates sometime blurs the reality we know about life. We expect too much thus when they lose, we feel like we have lost it all in life.

We normally create a near slave-like dependency expectation on our preferred politicians.

To walk the process of healing, start re-calibrating you mind and get a proper perspective of how your life has to move on.

Realize that all Kenyans (winners and losers alike) will still need to work hard to feed their families and pay taxes. Be cognizant that the winning party when in government may be corrupt and affect all citizens.

Mentally re-distribute the benefits and losses of the government of the day across the whole country and to all citizens rather than carrying everything on your shoulders.

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4. Disengage from social media 

Nothing scours an already bleeding wound like the daily bits of information (fake or real) that somehow justify the feeling that your candidate was rigged out.

If you want to really heal out of this mire, you must be serious and remain committed.

Disengaging from news on social media, and political blogs in general for a few days may be the biggest healing dose you may need to make a huge healing step.

Take a social media vacation; you won’t miss much and it’ll help you recover from the political overload so many of us are feeling today.

Just remember that you cannot trust every bit of news you read online.

Persisting on social media will feed your soul with inciting and emotional news and images that will take you deep and deep into the pit of grief.

5. Get professional help

While sharing all the above, I’m cognizant that this grieving process may get worse than I can imagine. Your life may start falling apart while you have no idea how to reconstruct it yourself.

If you find yourself unable to leave your house or relate to folks after this bruising political battle and loss, you may be suffering from depression. This can be serious and is more common than you may think.

If you see this signs, find real professional help and find it quick. Do not wait for the court outcome on any electoral petition. Save your life first.

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