My five stages of grief over the election

Since Tuesday many in this country have been going through a grieving process. Despite multiple attempts by others to shut this down, despite the cries of “stop whining” or “just get over it”, the grief is real and it is warranted. People are grieving Hillary’s actual loss. They are grieving for the ideals that appear to be lost as a result of this election. People are grieving the loss of a country they thought existed, which is actually much different. For many, myself included, this is a gut wrenching, heartbreaking loss. We deserve to feel that pain.

The well known stages of grief model describes the emotions that arise when dealing with loss: Denial, Bargaining, Depression, Anger, and Acceptance. Sometimes the feelings arise in that order and people move linearly through the stages arriving at acceptance. More often, the feelings arise haphazardly, leaving the grieving person feeling discombobulated and perhaps a bit insane. They can jump from Bargaining, to Anger, back to Denial, and plunge in to Depression. The grieving person may feel brief periods of Acceptance then plunge back in to Denial and start the whole cycle over again. Grieving is a complicated process and we should all be giving ourselves the necessary time to feel and process these difficult emotions. We should be talking this through with people we love. And we should be ignoring those who insist that we should already be over this. Or that we should get over it at all.

My grief process has not been linear. I’ve been jumping back and forth through the stages hour to hour on a daily basis. Here’s a little of what each stage has looked like for me:

Denial

My denial phase on election night was super brief. By the time I got home to watch the coverage around 8:30 Trump was already ahead in electoral votes. I tried to convince myself that it was early and things would turn around, but I didn’t hang on to that for very long. When I awoke briefly at 3:45 Wednesday morning and saw the results, my denial phase was pretty much over. I haven’t really been back there since. I’d known in my gut for months that this was the way the election would go, I just hadn’t wanted to believe it. Now that it had happened, I wasn’t really wasting my time with denial. This was real, it was happening, and I had to deal.

Anger

During election night and certainly on Wednesday, I skipped bargaining and depression and went straight to anger. No anger isn’t right. Rage. I went straight to rage. Howling, screaming, visceral rage. At one point during election night, a straight male friend I was watching with began to complain about how annoyed he was at how vocal everyone was about their political views pre-election. I stared at the electoral vote map on the screen, almost completely red, looked back to him and screamed, “I’m not going to be able to get birth control!” It’s not the biggest consequence of this election that was already brewing in my mind, but it was the most relevant thing I could think of at the time. I continued on, yelling, “It’s time for all of us to get very angry. It’s time for us to yell.” Five days later I still believe this is true.

I have been pretty stuck in anger for the majority of the past five days. It started with anger at those who chose to vote third party. While watching the numbers come out of Florida and Michigan, one of the first things I noticed was that in both states the percentage difference between Trump and Clinton was tiny, and that two percent of voters had voted for Gary Johnson. It seemed pretty obvious to me that if Gary Johnson hadn’t been on the ballot that there would have been clearer results from these states. And that if Gary Johnson voters who hated Trump had just sucked it up and voted for Clinton, she would have won both states. Of course, I cannot be sure how the numbers would have been effected without his name on the ballot because that’s not what happened. And it’s ridiculous and reductive to blame the loss of an election on third party voters, even if I had written multiple articles about why a third party vote was contributing to a Trump presidency.

Eventually, my anger at third party voters shifted to anger at the DNC. I was a die hard Bernie supporter. I went door to door in New Hampshire in the middle of February to campaign for him in the primaries. I read everything he wrote, proudly wore a hand knitted (by someone else) Bernie beanie, and talked the ears off of anyone who would listen. I believed in our Lord and Savior Bernie Sanders. When it became apparent that he would lose the primary, I begrudgingly supported Hillary. I didn’t want to because I truly believed Bernie was the right choice, but I did because I believed that Hillary was obviously better than Trump.

When it came out that the DNC had tipped the scales in Hillary’s favor I was livid. I yelled about the rigged system, spent some time considering writing in Bernie, and then settled, angrily, on voting for Hillary anyway. When Trump won, all of my anger at the DNC was rekindled. Hadn’t they said that Hillary was the only viable candidate against Trump? Hadn’t they promised the Democratic party that Bernie stood no chance, even though polls showed that Bernie was much more likely to beat Trump? If they’d just let us have Bernie, none of this would be happening!

From there, my anger turned to the people who voted for Trump. How could there be so many racist, sexist, homophobic, assholes in this country? What kind of awful place was I calling home? Didn’t they understand what this would mean for all the marginalized people in this country? Did they even care? I fell hard in to the myth that everyone who voted for Trump was an ignorant, uneducated, white person and I began to hate them.

It’s taken a lot of talking to those around me to realize that my hatred for an imaginary “Trump voter” does no good. When I am truly ready to listen, which I’m not right now, I need to listen to Trump voters and find out why they truly believed he was the better option. And I need to work with others to address their concerns. Because the rage I have felt all week is the rage they’ve felt for years, and they poured all that rage in to electing a hateful bigot. The longer we exile these people, the longer their rage will control our future.

I still haven’t been able to let go of the anger. I’ve gotten to the place where I’m not angry all the time, but the anger is still there the majority of the time. I’ve heard a lot of people say that the anger is unproductive; that it’s just another way that Trump wins. I agree and disagree. If we stay stuck in our anger then it certainly is unproductive. We just rage and nothing changes. But if we hold on to our anger and let it fuel action, then change can occur. I believe that the collective anger of the country can be transformative. If nothing else, this election teaches us that anger can change the landscape of an entire country. So, I believe that we must hold on to our anger to transform this country back in to the one we want. Anger over injustice has changed this country many times over. It can happen again if we refuse to stay stuck and let the fire of anger burn and cleanse us.

Depression

Wednesday was spent oscillating between anger and depression. I cried all the way to work as I listened to the NPR coverage of the morning after. My job on Wednesdays is at a Visitor’s Center where I’m basically there to answer the phone and say hi to folks when they come in. This leaves me with a lot of downtime, which is good when I have an article due, but not so great the day after a traumatic election. It took everything in me not to break down in tears. I read Hillary’s concession speech and fought back tears. I read Obama’s speech and held back tears.

I felt legitimate despair in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time; utter hopelessness. At times during the day on Wednesday it really seemed like the world was over. I didn’t know how to move forward. I felt like this had all happened despite my best efforts and that nothing I could do could stop the ball the country had set rolling.

A lot of my friends have expressed this kind of depression and despair. And we have been called melodramatic, but are we really? The world fundamentally changed on Tuesday and the way we will be living their lives day to day is being threatened by this administration. We are mourning the loss of the lives we’ve been living. We’re mourning the loss of our safety. This depression is real and we’re allowed to feel it.

Bargaining

I’ve seen a lot floating around my Facebook feed about how the electoral college could fix this mess by changing their votes from Trump to Clinton. In some states, the electoral college representatives are not required to cast their votes the way their state voted. In theory, this means that the representatives to the electoral college could switch their votes and elect Hillary president.

When my husband first reminded me of this on Wednesday, I temporarily thought it was a great idea. I was entering the bargaining stage. Maybe this doesn’t have to be true. Maybe the electoral college can save the country from itself. Maybe we could get Clinton after all!

Upon reflection, however, I realized that though this scenario was technically possible, it would not be the right decision for the country. As much as I hate it, Trump was legally elected via our democratic process. Part of the anger and resentment that led to his election was the belief that insider elites have control of the government. The same people harboring that anger and resentment complained loudly about the system being rigged against Trump. If a group of insider elites changed the vote in favor of Hillary, chaos would erupt. The anger and resentment would boil over and I truly believe that violence would ensue. The country may never recover from the violence that would take place and those harboring anger and resentment at the system would continue to be ignored by said system. We’d only be making the problem worse.

Another bargaining technique I’ve employed was believing that all of Trump’s bad actions would catch up with him in the courts, and he would be barred from taking office or impeached shortly after taking office. This bargaining logic was flimsy to begin with, as the judiciary system has time and again proved that rich, white men can do whatever they want without facing prosecution or punishment. I also quickly realized that if Trump were impeached, Mike Pence would be President, which is honestly more terrifying than a President Trump.

So, my bargaining phase passed as quickly as it came.

Acceptance

In certain ways I have reached acceptance and in other ways I don’t believe I ever will. I have accepted the result of the election. Donald Trump legally, as far as we know, won the 2016 election. He will be inaugurated on January 20th 2017. He is moving in to the White House. He will be largely in charge of the country where I live. These things are facts that I really cannot change, and I have learned through lots of experience that when we cannot accept the things we cannot change we create our own pain. So, I accept that Donald Trump will be President.

I refuse to accept him as my President, and I will not advocate that anyone else does. I will not accept the legislation he intends to enact. I will not accept the repeals he is planning. I will not accept the ways in which he wants to change my life and the lives of my friends. A line must be drawn and it must be held. I will not accept this regime and I will do everything in my power to fight.

So what can I do? What can we all do? It’s time to make some earnest decisions about how we are using our resources, primarily our money and our time, and how we can give those resources to things that matter. Because it is time for action, and it is time for every single person who will not accept this administration and its goals to take action.

As a white, straight passing (even though I’m not straight), woman I have a ton of privilege. For years I have sat idle while marginalized people fought for themselves and I have not lifted a finger to help them in their fight. It wasn’t until the shootings this summer that I even began to be involved with activist groups. Yes, I was writing about feminism before then, but I wasn’t doing anything in my community. Then I joined Black Lives Matter Vermont and SURJ-BTV and I started to truly understand how much work there is to do and that it was my responsibility as a compassionate citizen to help do that work.

I always thought that I didn’t have the time to help or the money to give and the truth is that I was too selfish about my time and money. I have the time to give if I make the time for what I believe is important. I have the money to give $5 or $10 to organizations that matter. So do you. Over is the time where we can simply share Facebook statuses or wear safety pins and call ourselves allies. We have to take tangible actions, in our community and nationally.

Here is a list of charities that need your money and your time. Find out which local nonprofits need help fundraising or someone to sit at their desk and answer their phones. Check out protests in your area or nationally. Get out of your house and in to the streets. Most importantly, ask marginalized communities what they need. It’s not up to us to decide what action would be best to support them right now. We need to listen and show up in the ways they ask.

So, take your time to get through these stages of grief, and forgive yourself if that takes time. Be kind to yourself and others as we process this trauma. Once you feel able, take action. We can start the change we want to see.

On November 9th 2016 I woke up in my recurring nightmare

For months leading up to November 8th I pictured how the day might unfold. For some reason, every time I visualized watching the election coverage I visualized being up all night watching an impossibly close race. I imagined hearing the worlds “Donald Trump, the next President of the United States”, and sobbing. For some reason, for the past four months, I could not visualize an election night where Hillary Clinton won the Presidency. In my heart of hearts I didn’t believe that Trump would win, but my gut told a different story. Something in me knew that Donald Trump would win this election.

This nightmare has haunted me for the past four months. When I rushed home to watch the election coverage last night it seemed that my nightmare was beginning to unfold. By 8:30 when I got home, Trump was already leading in the electoral votes. My husband and my friends told me not to worry. It’s early, they said. It will be fine, they said. Hillary can definitely still do this, they said. But the later it got the clearer it became that this nightmare was becoming reality.

The race was a nail biter, just as it had been in my visualizations. My husband and I stayed up as late as we could and eventually decided to just leave the news coverage on in our bedroom as we tried to sleep. When I finally drifted off around 2am the race still hadn’t been called. I woke up for just a moment around 3:45am and in a haze noticed that the coverage still blaring on the television had called the race for Trump. I shook my husband awake and said simply, “They called it for Trump.” He quietly replied, “I know. Go back to sleep.” He rubbed my back and held me close and we restlessly slept for three or four hours.

I awoke before my alarm because my phone was blowing up with text messages from people I love. People expressing their gratitude and love for each other in the face of a hate monger being elected President. I told my friends I loved them. I checked Facebook and Twitter, knowing that this was real, but hoping beyond hope something had changed in the few hours I’d been asleep. But, of course, nothing had changed. Donald Trump was legally elected the President of the country in which I reside.

I am sad. I am angry. But more than anything else, I am scared. A lot of people woke up this morning scared for their lives. There will be a lot of writing done and published about why people are scared for their lives. As a writer, I feel obligated to add to that collective voice. So, let me tell you why I am scared.

First and foremost I am scared because I am a woman. Donald Trump is a sexual predator. He is accused of raping a thirteen year old girl. The woman accusing him recently dropped the lawsuit because she was receiving death threats and was too afraid to appear in court. In addition to this lawsuit, a number of women have come forward accusing Donald Trump of sexual assault. These lawsuits and accusations did not stop him from winning the Presidency. In fact, a large portion of the country who supports Trump believed that these women were being paid by “the establishment” to lie about Trump so he would lose the election.

This blatant disregard for legitimate accusations of sexual assault and the victim blaming, shaming, and disbelief that has followed is clear evidence of the rape culture that pervades this country. Electing a man who has made it clear that he does not understand or care about consent speaks to the fact that this country does not understand or care about consent. As a woman, I find this terrifying.

Electing a man who talks about women the way he does without apology, who then turns around and says he respects women, says that this country does not understand what it means to respect women. He speaks about women in a way that makes it clear that he does not believe they are equal to men. He objectifies women and assesses their value based on their physical appearance and willingness to be subservient to men.

It is impossible to respect women while assessing their worth based on their appearance or sexual appeal. It is impossible to respect women while degrading them and dismissing them. It is impossible to respect women while not supporting their efforts to rise up in the world. As I woman, I am scared to live in a country that is making it clear that I am a second class citizen.

I am also scared of the potential anti-women policy changes that could come out of this Presidency. Though Trump’s stance on abortion has been unclear, Mike Pence’s has not. Pence has repeatedly stated his desire to overturn Roe v. Wade. He has also made it clear that he would work to defund Planned Parenthood. Pence has also been pretty clear about making birth control less accessible for women, and his Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana made it legal for businesses to deny services to customers or employees based on the business owner’s religious beliefs. In his support of this legislation he cited the Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed businesses to deny employees access to birth control on company insurance plans if the business opposed birth control on religious grounds. It is clear that Mike Pence does not want women to have control over their own reproductive systems or their bodies in general.

As a women with a chronic reproductive disease, endometriosis, whose life is only made bearable by having the Mirena IUD, I am scared that birth control may not be covered under my insurance in the future. Getting an IUD inserted without insurance can cost as much as $1,000. When I want to have a child, which I know I do, I will need to pay for the procedure to have the IUD removed. Then I will need to pay again to have the IUD reinserted, because not having the IUD is not an option for me, for multiple reasons. First and foremost, I have found it to be the most effective and convenient form of birth control I’ve ever been on. And since the responsibility of birth control is almost always on women, I’m going to choose the method of birth control that works best for my life.

Secondly, the Mirena IUD is the only form of birth control that hasn’t made me physically or mentally ill. I went on birth control for the first time when I was fourteen because my periods were so awful I missed school and on some occasions even ended up in the hospital. Side note: even though I was in constant pain from my periods for years, I was not diagnosed with endometriosis until I was 27. The medical field’s willingness to dismiss women’s pain and reproductive issues is a whole other story.

I have been on the pill, the patch, the Nuva Ring, and both types of IUD’s in my quest to find birth control that works for me and my body. The first birth control I went on was a high estrogen pill. Within weeks I experienced violent mood swings and became suicidal. As someone who already suffered from clinical depression, these symptoms could not be taken lightly and my birth control was switched. The Nuva Ring contributed to hormonal imbalances so severe that I was chronically ill for two years. On the Paraguard IUD, I spent 14 days every month, yes my period lasted 14 days every month, vomiting and writhing on the floor with abdominal pain so intense that I went to the hospital almost monthly. The Mirena IUD is the first form of birth control that didn’t make sick or suicidal.

Lastly, the Mirena IUD is the only form of birth control that has controlled my endometriosis symptoms. For almost two years I have been able to get through each month without taking time off work. I have been able to get through my period without vomiting. I haven’t been to the hospital because of period cramps. My chronic GI distress, which was misdiagnosed as IBS but which was really a side effect of the endometriosis, has subsided. I am healthy and relatively happy in my body for the first time maybe ever.

In a country run by Donald Trump and Mike Pence, I may not be able to afford the Mirena IUD. My life could return to being a constant battle with a chronic disease. My husband and I may have to change our plans for our future family. We had planned on only having one child, but if I don’t have control over my reproductive system that may have to change. My future and my family’s future is in the hands of two straight, white men who don’t believe I have the right to make decisions about my body.

I am a woman facing a future where my consent does not matter, where my voice does not matter, and where my body does not matter. Of course, I am afraid.

I am also scared because I identify as bisexual. As I have already stated, I am married to a man, so I am a straight passing queer. It has taken me a long time to recognize and claim my identity as a bisexual. When I started dating my husband five years ago after exclusively dating women for a few years I began to think of myself as a “hasbian” a pejorative term used for women who “used to be” lesbians. I began to truly believe that maybe it had just been a phase. Many of the people around me were quick to agree. I’d chosen the straight life, therefore I had probably just been “experimenting”.

It took me years to admit to myself and others that though I love my partner very much and eventually chose to marry him, I am still attracted to women. I started to read articles about bisexual erasure and realized that I had fallen in to erasing my own bisexual identity. And I allowed others to erase my bisexual identity. I allowed my sexual orientation to be defined by who I had married.

Slowly I began to own my bisexual identity, but only in quiet ways. In conversations I say my “ex girlfriend” instead of using gender neutral pronouns or just saying my ex. If it comes up, I talk openly about my experiences dating women. If someone straight up asks about my sexual orientation I say I am bisexual. But I am not loud and out about it. I have hidden in my straight passing status.

Today, as queer people all over the country fear for their lives, it would be much easier for me to continue to hide as a straight passing woman. I know that my straight passing status gives me privileges, even in a country run by Trump and Pence. My life will not be affected in the same ways. My marriage will not be threatened. My ability to adopt children will not be threatened. My ability to have legal parenthood of my partner’s children will not be threatened. My life will not be changed in the same ways. But it would be cowardly of me to address the hatred the LGBTQ community is facing as if it were only affecting my friends. It affects me too because I am a queer woman.

I have purposely not written about LGBTQ issues from a social justice perspective because I have been afraid to own my identity as a bisexual woman. I have been afraid of the judgement I might face from people I know and love. But as a writer I have to start writing about the way LGBTQ people are being treated across the country and the dangers of a Trump Pence presidency to their lives. To my life. And I need to start stepping up in my own queer community and taking action in my backyard. I cannot responsibly do that while erasing my own queer identity.

So, as a bisexual woman, I am afraid. Selfishly, I am a afraid of the judgement I may face for claiming my identity publicly. But I am more afraid of a Presidency that has talked about enacting legislation that will make it legal to discriminate against my queer community. I am more afraid of a country that will take away the legal rights of humans just for loving who they love.

Lastly, as a writer, I am afraid. Trump has been anything but quiet about his contempt for the media. He has repeatedly discussed legislation that would infringe upon the First Amendment. He wants to pass laws that would make it easier to sue publications and journalists for printing opposing viewpoints. Trump has also repeatedly threatened to sue publications and individual journalists, and has endlessly mocked reporters, including a disabled reporter. He does not hide his hate for writers who dare to criticize him and his ideas. Recently, a supporter at a Trump rally donned a shirt that suggested lynching journalists was the answer.

A Presidency where the First Amendment is under siege and journalists may not be protected by law is terrifying for a writer. Especially writers like me, who try their best to point out inequality and social injustice where they see it, which is everywhere with Trump and Pence. I know my voice is not yet large enough to be struck down by Trump and Pence, but I fear that legislation will be passed that will silence my developing voice.

When facing such fear of speaking up it would be much easier to stay quiet. I cannot. I have seen many social media posts about how giving in to anger means that Trump has won in more ways than one. But I am giving in to anger. It is time to be angry. It is time to raise our voices and scream. It is time to gather and loudly express the rage that this election season and result has brought.

The rage of the white lower class voters who have been ignored for so long was heard loud and clear early this morning. Men and women, mostly white, who have been ignored by the political system for years have made their voices heard by electing Donald Trump the next President of the United States. As much as I want to react to them with hatred, I know I need to listen. Their rage has brought this country to the place it is today. Their collective voice, screaming with the rage of being forgotten and ignored has been heard.

It is time for the rest of us to scream back. It is time for women to continue to scream that they will not be ignored. It is time for LGBTQ people to continue to scream that they will not be murdered and ignored. It is time for people of color to continue to scream that they will not be murdered and ignored.

But most importantly, it is time for straight white people, particularly straight white men, to start screaming. It is time for them to stop being complacent. It is time for them to stop thinking or saying “this doesn’t affect me”. It is time for them to join our collective scream of rage. It is time for them to stand up for us and say “we will not let this happen to our country.”

Because the truth is, the people who are most of afraid of a Trump Pence Presidency have been screaming for a long time. They have been silenced for a long time. They will continue to scream just as loudly and louder, but their voices will continue to be silenced. Their voices need to be amplified by those whose voices are given more space, which unfortunately means white men.

It is time for everyone to step up and find out what they can do to support communities of color, LGBTQ communities, and women.

No one should have to feel like I did this morning when I woke up to find out my recurring nightmare had become a reality.