After you study the issues and candidates, cast your vote, and learn the election results, please remember this:
Regardless of the outcome — win or lose, rout or run-off — the individual people in your life are more important than the people elected into community, state, and national political offices.
(You might be asking, “What does this have to do with grief and the bereaved?” Keep reading. We’ll get there.)
(This sticker was from an earlier local and primary election. I’m going to the polls on Election Day. Will there be lines? Probably. But that’s okay — people-watching is always instructional.)
I don’t mean to imply that politics don’t matter. I take the opportunity to vote seriously. When I was a child, I watched my mom research the issues, attend rallies, and question candidates. This was long before the Internet allowed Google-speed searches. She invested her time — lots of it! — and her intellect in making informed choices to better our neighborhood, city, state, and nation, all the while instilling in me the responsibility to do the same.
Over some election results, Mom rejoiced; over others, she mourned — though never to extremes. No gloating, no berating. No in-your-face chanting or ranting.
I emulated her example with my children as they grew up, dragging them with me to pick up and turn in petitions, voting before or after school (so they came with me into polling places), explaining my choices beforehand and while awaiting election results.
After Mom died, when questions of politics arose, her overwhelming absence overshadowed my interest in doing as she’d taught me. I still went through the motions of researching, but the process felt hollow — as did much else without her.
However, it wasn’t until after her death that I learned how much farther her influence spread beyond what she taught me. In the first half dozen years after she died, I received phone calls — more than I counted — from people she’d met and networked with. For years, they’d sought her out during every election cycle, asking, “What do you think of so-and-so?” or “How do you interpret the meaning of such-and-such?”
She’d never told them how to vote, but she freely shared the information she had gathered and let them make up their own minds. So after she died, they called me, (rightly) assuming I did the same kind of research.
Over time, elections triggered fewer painful reminders of her absence and offered more opportunities to reflect on what a great woman she was. That became my secondary focus as I researched.
When my husband died, everything political blurred. I still cared on some level, but it was a level so far below the surface level of mourning — where I tried to survive — I may as well have been reading campaign signs without my glasses. (Reading anything without my glasses means I see only colorful, impressionistic, wordless blurs.)
Raw with shock and grief, I scarcely remembered to pay the same bills I’d managed before. I couldn’t pick out a box of cereal or loaf of bread in the grocery store without bursting into tears. Political research became a low priority. Campaign calls to my late husband’s phone, which I couldn’t yet make myself turn off, felt like daggers to my already torn heart. Contribution solicitations addressed to him made me want to stop checking the mail.
But that wasn’t the worst part.
What hurt the most as a newly grieving widow was the bitterness, rancor, mudslinging, and nastiness of political arguments. I didn’t mind honest, open-minded debate and discussion — still don’t — but I couldn’t stand the unkindness — still can’t.
Strangers attacking strangers — on social media, at rallies, over the radio. Family members fighting over philosophical disputes. Candidates calling names and contending.
Ick. Yuck. Eew.
When you’re grieving, the worst thing in the world — the death of your loved one — has already happened. Your world is upside down. The last thing you need is arguing and animosity over politics.
When you’re mourning — immersed in the hurt and anger of loss — you can’t abide meanness. You’ve been forced to acknowledge that life is too short for such negativity.
When you’re not bereaved yourself, it’s easy to forget that all around you — in person and online — there are folks in various degrees of mourning loved ones. People you know and people you don’t know, all facing their own grief over death or divorce or health …
So, please, please …
Please keep politics in perspective. There will be future elections. But many are mourning loved ones who won’t be with them in that future; they’ve got enough to handle without being surrounded by more negativity.
No matter the outcome of this election (or others), be kind.
For more about mourning and politics, see Taboo Topics When Someone Dies — Part 1, Politics