As the US presidential election campaigning season was coming to a close, I heard on the news that it would take “a miracle” for Donald J. Trump to win the election and become President of the United States.
I voted on Election Day, feeling like my action as an American citizen mattered. I still feel, in the grand scheme of things, that my singular vote did count. I watched the election results on CNN, filled with the hope that life in the United States would revert to normal with the election of Hillary Clinton.
Early on, I noticed that my estimation of the election outcome was not what I expected – far from it. I saw that way more people voted for Trump than I thought could have been possible. I told myself that if he won, then we in the United States were doomed. Soon enough, long before it was officially declared that Trump won the election, I knew deep in my gut that he won the presidential election.
I found myself face-to-face with “a disaster,” a description that Trump has used in his politicking. I could not watch any more of this nightmare coming true before my very eyes, so I decided to go to bed and I cried myself to sleep.
When I woke up the next day, I decided to check what every fibre of my being knew to be true: Trump indeed won the US presidential election.
The occasion called for me to grieve, like I was dealing with the death of a beloved person. I reached out to family members to deal with this brave new world. This wouldn’t be the first time that I needed my family to deal with this tragedy.
I came to deal with the stages that are traditionally associated with grief, though not necessarily in the expected order. The first one that came up was depression. Looking back at that moment, it was hard to remember the details of what I felt, but I distinctly remember a dark cloud surrounding me and it was hard to shake off.
I found myself in a state where it was hard to enjoy the things that I normally would have enjoyed. My twin sister and I planned on going to a local place to celebrate, if Hillary Clinton was elected President. Instead, my twin sister, mother and I agreed to order a deep dish pizza and BBQ wings from Domino’s Pizza, the goal of which (at least for me) was to sop up the sorrow and feel more ready to face the world after the election.
Soon enough, I decided to venture outside, unsure of what to expect. I don’t remember seeing a lot of people walking the streets, which was unusual. It felt like I stepped into a scene from The Twilight Zone.
I started venting to people I trust, which meant being vulnerable to others. Most people were okay with what I was saying – nothing I said was particularly vitriolic, but one of the responses I heard made me realize that a specific chapter in my life is over — I could no longer avoid talking about politics. Looking back, I do consider my venting as a form of anger, which is another stage in the grieving process.
Sometimes, I found myself wishing that Hillary Clinton won the presidential election. In the midst of my wishful thinking, I would try to imagine the scenario as though it really happened. This type of thinking is a form of denial, another stage in the grieving process, of what actually happened.
Sometimes, I would hear some form of disbelief that Trump won the presidential election. Some news would come up about how Trump could not have won the election fair and square. I heard about a petition being passed around to help Hillary Clinton. I did not take such a stand, but I secretly hoped that this disbelief could make a difference in the outcome of who would ultimately end up being sworn in on Inauguration Day. This hope fits the bill of the bargaining stage of grief.
In spite of the rumours of the Russian government being involved in influencing the U.S. election process, I highly doubt that the recent news changed who ended up being sworn in on Inauguration Day on January 20. I have decided to accept the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, a step that is important in the grieving process. I can’t continue to grieve about what happened because there is too much to look forward to in 2017 – if I continue to grieve, I will simply continue to hurt myself, which I don’t want to do.
In Harry Stein’s book I Can’t Believe I’m Sitting Next to a Republican, for some people of a conservative bent, the fact that Barack Obama was elected President in 2008 was a time of mourning. The grieving process stems from taking sides in an increasingly tense political environment, but the 2016 presidential campaign and its outcome have unleashed something ugly in the world. Racism and other forms of prejudice have been spoken about before, but they are becoming more visible to the naked eye. It sickens me that a white nationalist group had planned a celebration in a neighborhood that I am personally familiar with.
In the same book, the mainstream media was heavily criticized, but the idea that fake news can gain more respect than real news can lead to dangerous consequences, such as the shooting at Comet Ping Pong, a pizzeria which the shooter believed was a hotspot for child trafficking. I’ve been there and I can say for sure that this pizzeria is a family-friendly restaurant that serves pretty good pizza.
People are finding ways to express themselves in the face of the election outcome, including flying flags supporting LGBT rights and signs discrediting hatred. Pandora’s Box has been opened, but hope is still there, shining brightly.
Selma Khenissi is a journalist based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. She loves to interview people, research extensively and read the latest news. Follow Selma on Twitter or view her portfolio to see more of her work.