Losing an election feels very much like the end of a relationship, complete with the anxiety, attendant heartbreak, sorrow and sleepless nights.
There are winners and losers. There are those who accept the loss early on, concede with grace and courage, and move on seamlessly. There are those who remain stuck in the denial stage, who slug it out until the opponent has been proclaimed or sworn in. Then there are those who remain angry and embittered, who take a long while licking the wounds inflicted by the loss.
Six stages of grieving
I was reminded of the six-stage model of grieving espoused by esteemed researcher and author Dr. Therese Rando which is called the 6 R’s of Grieving. We often use this model when teaching about grief and loss or in counseling clients who come to us. Reading the news, watching the reactions of candidates who did not expect to lose the elections was quite interesting.
This column is dedicated to all those who lost, to their families and supporters—may the strategies provided here, give you some relief from your election grief.
Rando’s first R is Recognize. One cannot move forward unless the loss has been accepted. By the time this story comes out, most of the winners will already have been proclaimed. Those who lost will have to come to terms with accepting that they have lost the battle, and allow themselves to fully feel the grief over their loss.
React, is the second R, and we saw a lot of this happening on social media—Facebook, Twitter, blogs. Fans and supporters of losing candidates had reactions to their losing bets that bordered on the cruel to the hilarious. It is normal for people to react emotionally to their loss, but care must be taken not to go overboard by being destructive and violent in the face of a loss.
The third R is Recollect or Re-experience. During this stage, the candidate himself or herself, his supporters and family members may review the campaign trail, assess what went wrong, replay (sometimes endlessly) the good and bad times during the campaign period all the way to the counting of the ballots and eventual proclamation.
Putting the loss behind you
The fourth R, and this is probably where most of the losing candidates are right now, almost a week after election day—Relinquish. At this stage, the losing candidate and his supporters have begun to put their loss behind them, finally realizing and accepting that the seat has been lost and that there is no longer any turning back.
Candidates such as Risa Hontiveros, Jun Magsaysay and Shalani Soledad were able to move quickly through the first four R’s, perhaps owing to the fact that while they had high hopes of winning, they still had other things to fall back on. For other unsuccessful candidates, this time is also a point where they begin to reassess what options remain and where to focus their remaining energies on—family, another advocacy, returning to a business.
The fifth R is Readjustment, where people begin to return to the process of daily living and the loss starts to lose its sting, and now feels less acute and sharp. Getting to this point may take a while for some people, depending upon their individual personalities and the support systems available. One story I heard is that back when a famous personality lost the governorship of his province, his wife decided to buy a new house, thus keeping losing candidate busy on his toes, overseeing the sale and move into the big new house.
Be kind to yourself
Of course, not everyone can buy a house, so others take long trips, or go on extended breaks before returning to their routine. The key is to be kind to oneself at this time, to be patient because grieving takes time.
Lastly, it is important to Reinvest, to bring in new relationships and commitments into one’s life, to be able to accept the changes that have occurred in the face of the loss. It is usually at a time of loss or crisis that one sees who one’s true friends are. Often, as they say, when one door closes, another door opens. With the wisdom learned from the loss, one is able to boldly walk into the door that has opened.
In an article published in The Atlantic, entitled “How To Walk Away,” social psychologist, author and associate director of Columbia University’s Motivation Science Center Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson cites a study by behavioral economists Daniel Kahnemen and Dan Ariely that shows how people are generally loss-averse. “Putting in a lot, only to end up with nothing to show for it, is just too awful for most of us to seriously consider. The problem is one of focus. We worry far too much about what we’ll lose if we just move on, instead of focusing on the costs of not moving on: more wasted time and effort, more unhappiness and more missed opportunities.”
In the same article, Halvorson shares excellent and sage advice that one can heed whether the loss takes place in the arena of a broken heart or an election loss. Culled from a study done by Northwestern University psychologists Daniel Molden and Chin Ming Hui, which demonstrates that the most effective way to ensure you are making the best decisions when things go awry is this—focus on what you have to gain by moving on, rather than what you have to lose.
When taken to heart, moving forward becomes so much easier.