Monday, January 23, 2017

Grief and Politics

[Reviewed and updated November 20, 2022]

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.  ~ Thomas Jefferson

A reader writes: I am a political scientist and naturally I am fond of political debate. I have noticed that during the recent campaign and national election I grew intolerant, closed to debate, cynical, and skeptical. I find myself thinking I am right and others are wrong or naive in their opinions. I am consuming news online and on television. I had a fight with a best friend because of politics. Before, I listened to people. Now I can't.

This is not about grieving electoral results, but my grief is interfering with everything and I am scared to lose dear friends. I cried last night because I acknowledge this attitude is wrong and although I understand where it all comes from -- my loss -- I don't know what to do. I am mad at a world and a life that has failed me because my boyfriend died. I understand his death changed me, but I am scared that I am changed for the worst.

What can I do? How do I handle politics in this crack scenario and while grieving? Any suggestion, article, etc. is very welcome. Thank you

My response: My dear, for starters, please recognize that you are not alone in your reaction to the election (see, for example, Your Post-Election Pain Is Real Grief). When your beloved died, your personal world and your hopes for the future were dashed ~ and now on top of that, with this election and its aftermath, it feels as if the entire world as you knew it is coming down around your ears. Is it any wonder that you're struggling? So I think the first thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling, instead of telling yourself that you are "wrong" for feeling as you do.

Remember, however, that although we cannot control how we are feeling, we CAN control what we do with what we are feeling. So what can you DO with all these feelings you're having? Here are some suggestions:

Begin by understanding and accepting your feelings as legitimate and real. Recognize and identify the specific ways your losses are affecting you, and stop judging yourself for that.

You say you are consuming news online and on TV. Unless the work you do requires it, do whatever you can to limit your media consumption and your exposure to unsettling "breaking news" reports, which are rampant these days and are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

At least for now, try to be with people whose political views more closely match your own, and limit your contact with those who don't agree with your views.

Acknowledge your anger as legitimate and real (see In Grief: Acknowledging Jealousy and Anger, but try to find safer and more effective ways to channel and release that energy (see Suggestions for Coping with Anger in Is Anger One of the Stages of Grief?).

Recognize that your sense of safety in this world has been shaken to the core, and use whatever tools you can find to manage your anxiety (e.g., relaxation recordings, guided imagery CDs, meditation, breathing exercises, etc. See Anxiety Attacks in Grief: Tools for Coping).

Take care of your physical self. Check in with your primary care physician to make sure your body is functioning well (heart rate, blood pressure, weight, etc.) Make sure you're getting sufficient rest, nutrition, hydration and exercise. (See Physical Reactions to Loss) Pamper yourself (pedicure, manicure, massage, warm baths, new outfit or hair style, etc.)

Find someone you can talk to (in person) who will listen to you without judgment and act as a sounding board for you. A few sessions with a qualified therapist or counselor can be very helpful.

Most of all, dear one, remember the Serenity Prayer. Focus on finding the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference. ♥

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here.

© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH

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