Scottsdale, Arizona—God’s timing is impeccable. He also has a great sense of humor.
I timed my grief classes this year to coincide with the US elections. I thought it would be an interesting time to be here.
Nov. 8 was a landmark day for the Philippines and the US. It ended in mourning for perhaps half the nation. On both sides of the Pacific there was a lot of grieving.
What better place to be in than in a refresher course for counseling skills in a state known to be very Republican? Okay, God, I get it.
I mourned with a lot of our countrymen the Supreme Court’s decision on the Marcos burial at Libingan ng Mga Bayani. I went to class terribly glum and shared with some 40 predominantly American and Canadian students what had just happened.
Little did I know that the next day, it would be the Americans’ turn.
I stayed up all night waiting for the election results. When it all became clear at around 10 p.m. in Arizona, I knew the next day would be difficult.
The morning of Nov. 9 here, I dreaded entering the classroom because I knew it would be very awkward. And true enough, there was a pall of gloom. Even our teacher and mentor was late, and came dressed in black.
He said that we would focus on our lessons, and veer away from any talk of politics. It was a very wise decision.
Get off social media
Posttraumatic election stress is very real. It’s a lot like posttraumatic stress disorder, what majority of the Philippines felt when the decision to bury the dictator was handed down. How then can we survive these earthshaking events and manage to stay sane?
First, get off social media for a few days. It doesn’t help to bombard the mind and spirit with negativity.
There are many ways to mourn a loss. Write it, hold peaceful protests, talk it out with friends—get it out of your system.
Next, find positive ways to channel the pain and indignation. In the Philippines, there are many projects or advocacies to ensure that there is no revision of history. There are concrete steps that educators, parents, families and individuals can take to ensure that martial law is taught properly and never forgotten.
Finally, we must make a conscious effort to be kinder to ourselves and toward one another.
I like what one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Berg, wrote on US election night: “When they win, we make it so that we don’t lose.” Which is to say that we conduct ourselves with as much grace as we can muster, that we move forward with the same intentions that motivated us before, that we try to work toward what we know will make this a better world.”
Despite the darkness, we need to strive to be the light. The darker it is, the more we need to go inside of ourselves to find that spark. We cannot do this if we continue to bombard ourselves with negativity.
We need to take time in the wilderness to regroup, and then go back into the world recharged and renewed to slay whatever dragons there are.
In these times, I always remind myself that God is sovereign over all nations, leaders and courts, that everything that takes place is part of His divine plan.
I choose to remind myself of that truth over and over again, cast aside my anxieties, and trust an unknown future and an all-knowing God who is definitely bigger and wiser than any leader on earth.
The holidays can be the toughest time of the year when loss (either through death or separation) is new. On Dec. 2, I will conduct a half-day workshop on “How to heal your grief during the holidays.”