Election Grief Is Real

It’s 5:30 am (for me at least) the day after the election. Try as I might, I did end up checking the polls a few times yesterday, despite telling myself I wouldn’t. I didn’t feel like there was a reason to get excited or riled up based on results that weren’t final yet.

I was successful in avoiding Facebook, however, and plan to avoid it for at least the rest of the week. Maybe that week should turn into the next four years…

Recently I saw a post that said something to the effect of: no matter who wins the election, half of America will feel like they lost.

That has really stuck with me. Inevitably half of our country will be feeling sad, defeated, and perhaps angry or outraged. That’s 165 million people who may be grieving the results of the election.

And when I say grieving, I really mean it quite literally. I thought about the term “election grief,” and while I’m not sure if it’s a clinical term, it’s a real thing. A quick search of “election grief” led me to results such as “Grief and Loss After the Election” and “Your Post-Election Pain is Real Grief.” They were articles from 2016 and 2018, but are still obviously relevant to 2020.

Psych Central reported that their page “5 Stages of Grief and Loss” got a 210% increase in traffic the day after the 2016 election.

I don’t know who won yet (I’ve been avoiding news today too), but I do know I’ve already been experiencing grief surrounding this election. Even more than the issue of who will be President for the next four years, my grief has come through other people. I’ve seen people who have greatly surprised me by the volatile posts they’ve written on Facebook. I’ve seen people that I used to respect engage in petty arguments in comments sections, or use “us and them” language.

I think one of the things that has been most upsetting to me this election season was seeing people being so hateful to one another in the name of God – using religion to bash others and stir up anger and bad intent.

I’ve grown up always being a believer in God and a regular church-goer. The pandemic was the first time in my life when I can say that I didn’t regularly go to church each Sunday. (Thanks to technology I’ve been able to participate in church from home.)

There haven’t been many times in my life that I’ve wanted to give up on church, or the church-at-large, but I will say this is the closest I’ve ever felt to it. It’s hard seeing people who say they love God be hurtful to others, it’s even harder seeing people from my local church, that I know and am friends with, do it too.

I’m not saying I want to give up on God, mind you, or my faith at all. But right now it’s hard to imagine going back to worship together with people who have spoken words of spite against me. They didn’t know they were doing it at the time, but when they overgeneralized to say “all people who think this are ________” or “you can’t be a Christian if you believe ________,” they were saying it against me.

I long for a place, a church, where I can go and feel safe to express my thoughts and beliefs. I long for a place that will love and accept me for who I am, no matter who I voted or didn’t vote for. I long for a place where people care more about others than themselves.

And I feel a sense of grief and loss because I’m not sure I’m going to find it.

In the midst of that, I’m so grateful for many things. A friend of mine said recently, “I’m so glad God loves us” and I think that’s important to remember. While people may not always show us love, God does. There’s nothing we can do to make Him not love us – and that’s pretty amazing actually.

I know I need to give others grace. I know I need to forgive people who have hurt me. I recognize that I’ve been part of the problem too, not seeking to understand others or letting them have a safe space to disagree with me.

But how can we have disagreement and still maintain unity? The solution may be simple (“agree to disagree” or “come together on the things you do agree on…”), but it’s certainly not easy. And it’s not a new problem either. I’ve been in a Bible study group that has been reading through some of the New Testament: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians (etc.), and the theme of unity has been a prominent one.

I won’t list all the verses that relate to unity, I hope maybe you’ll take time to find them if you’re a Bible-reading person. But I will share two verses that always strike a chord with me and challenge me to do better:

Do EVERYTHING without grumbling or complaining… then you will shine among them like stars in the sky… (Phil 2:14 + 15)

Do not let ANY unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but ONLY what is helpful for building others up… (Eph 4:29)

I love how these verses are absolute, there’s not room for a hint of grumbling or unwholesome talk. They’re hard to live up to, and really actually impossible to perfectly live up to.

I hope if you’re feeling similarly about church or other humans in general, that you won’t give up on God. I hope you’ll keep looking for goodness in others and not let despair overtake you. If you need a safe space to talk with someone I’d love to provide that for you.

Thanks for reading.

One thought on “Election Grief Is Real

  1. Social media definitely allows people to say things they wouldn’t normally say – I think it’s easier to see people as a “profile” or a “picture” instead of a real human with feelings. I’ve been off Facebook since Tuesday, and it has been a nice break!


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