There is a time to heal, and a time to mourn. Before a nation in grief can unite, its citizens need to mourn their individual losses first.
Mourning is very different from grieving. Grief is the container or the vessel of all the emotions we go through when we lose—sadness, anger, fear, anxiety, despair, etc. Mourning is the outward expression of all that is inside the vessel. And the quality of a person’s or a nation’s healing will depend on the quality of its mourning.
If you are in grief over the loss of your candidate (or you are the candidate yourself), let me explain to you the six needs of mourning as outlined by my teacher at the Center for Loss and Transition, Dr. Alan Wolfelt.
The first need is to accept the reality of the death, or in this case, the loss. Often we can cognitively, easily recognize and accept that a loss has taken place. “You can know something in your head, but not in your heart,” Wolfelt explains.
You move back and forth between protesting and accepting that your candidate has lost. Once you have finally reconciled your head and your heart, you move on and fulfill the second need, which is to allow yourself to feel the pain of the loss.
Bashing on social media is not a healthy way to feel the pain of your candidate’s loss. Hurling invectives, or inciting others to join your bandwagon of anger, only fuels the dark emotions and zaps you of your energy.
Feeling bitter can be a part of the process, but don’t stay there. Find a healthy channel for your anger or your sadness—one that is constructive, helpful and life-giving.
Second, get together with like-minded friends you trust, and in the safety of a private space (or page), you can vent, rant, analyze and dissect what happened. But again, don’t stay there forever. Once the emotions and feelings are out, let them go and release them.
The third need is remembering the person who died, or the person who lost. After you have poured all your energies into a campaign, suddenly you feel bereft—all the more if your candidate lost. I remember back in 2010, I was so invested in the Gibo Teodoro campaign that it felt like a family member had died when he lost.
The wise administrators at the Gibo Teodoro Facebook page shifted the content from campaign materials to inspiring posts and messages from Gibo himself. It helped the supporters move on from there.
Use the Facebook pages in a positive and constructive manner to help in the mourning. Do not use it to throw brickbats at the winning team. For what purpose does that serve?
Use it instead as a “memorial” of sorts for the candidate, and everything he or she stood for. Look back on the positives of the campaign period. Focus on the good—the times shared, the friendships made, the victories won.
Mourning need number four is developing a new self-identity. The elections are over, and your candidate lost. What has this experience taught you about yourself and how you accept defeat?
Losing is never easy, so it’s also a time to be compassionate with yourself. Be kind to yourself, be patient with yourself and others. Look for the positive changes in you that will come about as a result of this loss. Don’t focus or dwell on the negative emotions.
Search for meaning
Mourning need number five talks about a search for meaning. Why did my candidate lose? What does this mean for me and my country?
The answers do not come right away. Sometimes it takes several months, or even a year. This need requires a surrendering to God, to trust that He is sovereign over all nations and rulers and that He makes no mistakes.
The last mourning need is to let others help you as you mourn. If you are the losing candidate, there’s no need to suck it all in and pretend like it didn’t hurt. It sure hurts, and it will continue to do so for a while. All the energy, resources, time and emotions you put into the grueling campaign period will hit you after a while.
Take a break, go on a vacation, spend time with your loved ones and with genuine friends who lift you.
For losing candidates and their supporters, keep away from social media for now. Protect yourself from the fallout and the hangover of those who cannot yet quite come to terms with their loss.
Cocooning may help, too. Shut yourself out from external distractions when you feel the need to do so.
Everything passes. And as we all know, leaders come and go. Focus on what could go right, rather than what could go wrong. Everyone deserves to be given a chance to lead.
Mourn the loss, then jump back in. The change you want to see—it always, really, begins with you.