On Being Unable to Reach the Fifth Stage of Grief

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I felt this election in my bones.

I’ll be honest–this is the first political race that I’ve ever lost sleep over, that affected my mood, that made me feel uncontrollably combative towards the ‘other side’ even when I tried very, very hard not to. I know I’m far from alone in this.

I desperately wanted to be an activist–if we were in the States, I can guarantee I would have donned my very own coordinated pantsuit and gone door-to-door, making quite the impassioned case.

Even though I once promised myself to avoid all political talk on Facebook and stick to family pictures or light updates on the state of my being, for the past month or so I just couldn’t help myself. I poured a glass of wine as soon as I got home from work and thought, no, no, stay away, stay awayno one’s mind has ever changed from a goddamn Facebook post—but was unable to help myself.

I seriously COULD NOT stop; it felt like the only way to grab people by the shoulders from afar and shake them. You’re making a huge mistake! Click, click: Look at what he said! Look at what he did! Please, consider what he’ll do!

Yesterday when Todd woke me up with coffee and the announcement that Trump was winning, I thought he was joking. And, if so, I thought it was the least funny prank, ever. Over and over I insisted it wasn’t true until I put in my contacts and checked the news for myself.

And, yet, there it was. ‘Trump Triumphs,’ I read.

Let’s just say it wasn’t a great morning.

The ruling emotions for me (and so many others) have been the first four stages of grief on a loop –denial, anger, bargaining and depression. One of the most recurring adjectives I’ve heard Clinton or third party or Republican voters who dislike Trump use is “painful.” I think, for so many of us, this was a campaign that went beyond the politics and became deeply personal for all the issues it raised, all the values it put in to question.

So now we’re sitting in the rubble of what was a deeply divisive race. And, as an American living on the other side of the world, I’m suddenly struggling with the question of–what is my home country all about? Do I know America, anymore? Do I understand where I’m from in the way that I thought I did?

I truly, for the first time in the fifteen years I’ve been over here, feel the entire stretch of that 4,000 miles that separate me from where I was born and, over and over, I keep asking—who are you, America?

For the next four years (at least) the ‘mouthpiece’ of the country I come from will be someone who does not in any way reflect my values or how I view/treat women, immigrants, the disabled, veterans, the LGBT community, and everyone else he’s been offensive to.

These are important things. At least for me, this goes so much deeper than my preferred tax plan or student loan debt goals or state of the economy or dislike of ‘the establishment.’

This election highlighted core values—our attitudes and treatment of people.  

And, when my core values apparently aren’t aligned with the majority in the place I come from…where does that leave me? What does it mean? These are the questions I’m struggling with in light of all this. How is this election going to shape my relationship to ‘home?”

I understand and appreciate the democratic process and respect that the people voted, as is their right, and that this is the outcome. What’s done is done and it was fair.

But, I’m feeling a very personal loss right now, as so many others are.  I’m feeling the loss of country.  It’s impossible not to have deep concern for the groups of people he targeted because they will be affected by this.

The common tagline after elections is that we must “all come together.” Normally, I champion that idea wholeheartedly. But–how do I ‘join forces and come together’ with a new leader who goes against every moral standard I have?

We all knew what he was about. He left nothing in question. It was all out there. We heard, directly, how he talks about women. We saw twelve come forward and bravely tell their stories about how he assaulted them. We heard him demonize an entire religion, an entire population of our country. We heard his disrespect for Veterans suffering from PTSD. We heard him call them ‘weak.’ We watched him mock a disabled person live on national TV. We know what Pence would bring to the table with his voting record and stance on LBGT rights.

And, yet, the country I come from didn’t show much sign that it mattered. They voted him in, anyway, fair and square.

My problem is that I will never be able to clap my hands and say, right—let’s move on from all of this and rally behind this man.

Like Martin Luther King, I passionately believe the ‘content of our character’ is important. Above all—I believe in human rights and decency. And, that being said, the content of Donald Trump’s character lays at the opposite spectrum of everything I value in a human being.  In a leader.

If you read my second to last post, ‘Man Behind the Tree,’ I see Trump as being aligned with the man who waited behind that tree to attack me. And, in a broader sense, I see him as the ‘man behind the tree’ most of us experience in some form throughout our lives—the one who mocks disabled people, the one who gropes women or comments about their looks, the one who targets immigrants or anyone else they consider to be “different” from them with hate speech.

And now, instead of being behind the tree, this man will be behind the desk in the Oval Office.  He will be the one engaging in global dialogue.

So what happens now? Since I do not accept that voice as my own and never will, where does that leave my relationship with America?

I don’t have answers to these questions. They are just what I’ve been asking myself and struggling with all day.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is this—as an expat, as someone who chose to move away so many years ago, do I even have the right to feel everything that I’m feeling?

Over the past month I’ve gotten so worked up time and time again and then I stop myself and say, why do I care so much? I don’t even live there. I pay German taxes and will start receiving German retirement benefits in 2045. I’m in a different world. So why/how can I care SO much that I’m losing sleep?

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought over the past two days and here’s what I’ve come up with:

First and foremost, the people I love most in the world live there.  A Trump presidency will impact many of them directly–from their right to health care to their ability to be married and share equal rights and perception in our country.

Second, yes, I’m physically removed from the situation, but in an international setting you serve as an ambassador for where you’re from.

Yesterday I dropped Laken off at daycare and was actually a little surprised when the election was immediately brought up by her normally ultra-private teachers. They were horrified, couldn’t believe anyone would ever vote for Trump, wanted to know my personal thoughts.

I tried my best to explain it and later realized–I may be the only American they’ll get a chance to talk directly to.

See, when you’re an expat, you aren’t removed from where you come from. If anything, your Americanness is more pronounced than ever. You aren’t part of the masses. You don’t blend in with the crowd. Every single time I speak in public, I see people tune in to the English and glance over at me in acknowledgement of that Americanness.

As an expat you represent your country during the best and worst of times. You engage in dialogues; you try to explain it.

Yesterday at school the other teachers, all from so many other countries, rallied around to give out hugs. My colleagues from the UK shared their own feelings of disillusionment after Brexit. The German teacher voiced his own concerns about Germany’s current political leanings. My Mexican colleague made me laugh when he said, “Hey, we actually want a wall now—to keep us safe!”

We all shared moments of when we’ve walked in to school as a particular country representative, wondering what the reaction would be and how accountable we’d be held for it. How we’d find the words to explain.

America still is, always and no matter what, where I am from.

The election is in my bones because America is in my bones. That’s what has made these past few days so vastly confusing and painful.

I want to feel the closeness that I felt only weeks ago. I want to feel that, even though it’s 4,000 miles away from me, I still recognize the content of my character in the mouthpiece of the nation.

What scares me is that I don’t.  What scares me is that I know I won’t be able to reach that final, all important stage of grief so long as he’s president—acceptance.

I simply cannot rally behind someone who is a vindication for hatred.

So, what now? I honestly don’t know.

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21 thoughts on “On Being Unable to Reach the Fifth Stage of Grief

  1. Those of who are here in the states who did not vote for Trump feel the same way. I told my husband last night exactly what you said above, that I will never, ever reach the point of acceptance. It’s going to be a very long four years for a great many of us.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much for your comment–it helps to know that there are people to grieve with, truly. I could ‘take’ policy change. I could take a shift from Democrats being in charge to Republicans. But, I just cannot take someone who spews so much hatred. I’ve had to stay away from the news today–I just can’t even watch this reality unfold quite yet! Anyway, thank you for writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yep. Stayed home from work on Wednesday. I stayed home disgusted. I don’t seem to have any bloggy buddies who admit to voting for Trump, but almost all my friends in real life did. And I don’t talk about it. But how can that be?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was home, too, for at least part of the day because Laken got sick and was sent home. This is a tough one to cope with. I have been reading and reading and trying to understand and there’s so much I DO get–the desire for change, being sick of the establishment, etc. etc. But to put someone in office who has been VICIOUS to groups of people…who will directly impact the quality of their lives…I can’t accept that! Ugh. I just don’t want this to be the reality of things.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I grew up in and still live in the American South. Trump’s sexism, his dislike of LGBT people, his religious intolerance, his subtle and sometimes not to subtle racism, and, yes, even his mocking of the disabled are all familiar to me because while these are attitudes I’ve never condoned or shared I’ve spent most of my life in the midst of them. And long before his ascendancy I came to realize that racism, sexism, homophobia, and bigotry are not restricted to the South, although this is a region where such attitudes are more highly concentrated.
    I didn’t realize, though, the extent to which other parts of this country are like the South. It’s truly shocking even to me how many people could openly support Donald Trump, could defend his worst aspects.
    It’s also very hard for me to reach acceptance. I attended a protest today. I doubt it will do any good, but I wanted to stand in solidarity with my friends who are Muslim, African American, gay and lesbian, and transgender. I wanted to stand with my friends who’ve fought cancer and who are now going to lose their health care.
    I’m normally a very optimistic person but for the first time in my life I don’t want to be optimistic. And yet I find a very thin, very faint silver lining to this very dark cloud. More people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. He won the electoral votes but lost the popular vote.
    Nationwide the majority of Americans rejected him.
    I can’t accept the loss but the fact that, nationwide, we are better than the person who now claims the title of President, is something I’m happy to accept.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I respect you so much, Chris. I think it must be so much harder to develop your very own political voice when surrounded by people who think so differently from you. My best friend, Anthony, is the same. He’s the only liberal in a very conservative family and he is in a constant battle at family dinners and Facebook conversation to defend his beliefs. It must be draining and isolating. Good for you for going to that protest! I would give anything to be able to attend one of those. Speaking of isolated, at the moment I just wish I had my family and a large American community right here so that we could talk about this/comfort each other. I feel a bit on my own as I try to take all this in. Anyway, I agree with your silver lining and I hope that the popular vote vs electoral college is reconsidered at some point. Even Trump said the electoral vote was a disaster for democracy (but I bet his mind has changed now.) Big hugs–we’ll all get through this somehow!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A beautifully written post that encapsulates many of the emotions I’m also dealing with regarding the election result. It feels like our country has become completely unrecognizable over night. The hate crimes, the racist chants, the victory parades of white supremacists – I thought these things were isolated incidents. Something that a majority of the electorate would never implicitly support or overlook. I don’t know where to go from here. All I know is that – now more than ever – the world could use a whole lot more love.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the comment! I just started reading your latest post in the car, today, but realized it wasn’t a good idea because I get carsick easily. I’ll read it tonight. 🙂 Anyway, yes–our country does feel like it has gone to a new place, overnight. Even though it has been several days, now, every time I read the news I can’t help but still feel shocked that this is REALLY happening. I agree about the love–at the moment things are so polarized (even more than ever before.) I think it’s going to be harder to love than ever, and I don’t know where to go from here.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Maybe! I don’t know. One thing for sure is that this seems to have lifted a veil so we can see all the intolerance that still lies beneath the surface. This is scary as hell to see, isn’t it? I hope, somehow, that not too many get hurt as we hit rock bottom. 😦

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m only half American and living in the U.K. I don’t have an American accent, I used too, and I haven’t lived there since a small child. But I still feel half American, I was really involved in this election. I can’t believe how many people either agreed with his racism and sexism etc, or they just ignored it. Either is not good. This is going to affect my family so much. My sister who lives there is distraught, and rightly so, what is it going to mean to her wide range of friends? I feel a little dismayed that the 2 places I am from are so far away from what I believe in, brexit and trump. I can’t stomach the hatred of people who might be different to you. You wrote that so well, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow–you really are in the thick of it all, aren’t you?! Yes, it really is hard to believe. I’ve been doing this continual loop between disbelief, anger, sadness, confusion…that last one is coming up more and more frequently in the past day or so. I’ve been reading as much as I can get my hands on to try and answer the question HOW did this happen?? But, nothing I’ve read so far makes me feel better about the man or where I feel he’ll take the country. After writing this post and then in light of the election, I feel–shushed, somehow. Like I told this story as told to ‘shush.’ I know it sounds weird, but that’s the closest I can come to describing how I feel. Anyway, I will check our YOUR blog very soon!!!! Things are a bit hectic at the moment as my parents arrive for a visit this weekend, but I will still have time to read here and there and I will be visiting your page as well! 🙂 Thanks for an awesome comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Actually, I’m from Europe but I could be of anywhere as I’m a traveller. And at first we were thinking: ‘America, please wake up now, the world is afraid too.’ Go voting please! But it begins with the system: Why only the very rich can be elected? Are they wise enough, because as a president you should be a caring person, a wise person and ‘in our opinion’ not a warrior? Start a war, and once the war will come back to you… Obama was, but what about all the rest? They started war for oil, not for so called nucleair reasons. Was Obama free? Now, he was bounded to the system. He was limited in freedom. Where is your so called freedom America? Is real freedom, economical freedom for the rich? Is this banning Obama Care? Is this allowing policemen to do anything with coloured people in FREE America? Is this being without laws and ethics? Is this feeling the need to have a gun in your car, just in case of…? Is this awful Trumph the materialisation of the virtual big American dream?

    And now I think: Trumph is the big wake-up-call Amerika (and the world) needed to stand up, to reconsider things. He is no politician and no soldier, and maybe this is a good thing. There are no hidden agenda’s because he is a stupid and wealthy opportunist. He shows himself the way he is, and you and we say aloud: ‘Bah, this man is really without ethics’. ‘I don’t like him at all, no example for me and my kids.’
    So we’ll place ethics high on our agenda. I don’t say ‘religion’ because that’s not the same thing. In a strange way, thanks to his election, we’ll put woman’s issues high on the agenda (all over the world!) because he thinks that women are lower species without any intellect and we’ll talk again about ‘caring for people and wellbeing’, in stead of getting wealthy, no longer about Wall Street News and enrichment or being the biggest in the world. We’ll talk now about ‘safety and we will no longer keep silent and ignore abuse. Why? Trumph is all we don’t want to be, he could be that man behind the trees and thanks to his richness, he can easily get away with it. He is our dark side that we ignored. In fact you felt your anger coming back and told youself: ‘this is the moment to talk about the man behind the tree…’ And this is already a positive consequence… I really think the world needs wise citizins to change the world. This could be the beginning. So well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a great comment, Catherine. Thank you for that! I agree–there has to be something that this election will do for the positive. That’s a great perspective to take–that Donald Trump in the White House will bring attention to the issues that are out in the open right now, like racism and sexism. You said it best when you said ‘we’ll talk now about safety and we will no longer keep silent and ignore abuse.’ I agree, 1,000 percent. I’m going to really try and taken on your way of thinking with this! I have to–or else I’ll go crazy with anger that this is happening at all. Thanks again for an awesome comment. 🙂

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  7. A brilliant post Schnitty, eloquent and thoughtful as always even though it’s obviously a very emotional and traumatic issue for you – I still can’t write anything about that bastard without swearing. A lot. And a big part of me is still at that stage of denial… wanting to laugh when people talk about ‘President-elect Trump’ and him moving into the White House and all those things that make his election REAL. I feel like I’ve been beamed to an alternate reality.
    I’m not even in the States but I can understand a little how American non-Chump supporters feel; I too have never been so invested in an election outcome, and that includes in my own blimmin’ country! I’m female but otherwise not a member of any of the minorities his vile rhetoric has been targeting, but I want to show support for them whenever I can, and letting them know most people DON’T share Trump’s prejudices. It’s the least I can do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What an awesome comment and I’m SO sorry for the delayed reply!! We had friends and family staying with us for three weeks (my parents just left yesterday) so I’ve been on a bit of a blog hiatus. Anyway, I completely hear you on still being in a state of denial. I think part of my blogging break has also been because I can’t seem to think about anything but the election. In a way I feel like I’m waiting…for something. Not sure what it is, yet. For someone to say, “JUST KIDDING!” or for something to happen that removes him from this position or…I don’t know…a solution!! I really didn’t think it could get any worse than George W. Bush and yet here we are! It’s just sickening and scary and totally unbelievable. I’m at odds with a few friends over this and my brother and law and I are no longer speaking (he’s a huge Trump supporter and I dared to post something on my FB page against his beloved president elect.) It’s just a very sad time. I can’t believe we’re going from someone like Obama to someone like…THIS. UGH. Anyway, thanks again and sorry for taking so long to write you back!

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  8. Omg I felt the same way. It’s been just awful–bewildering, overwhelming, disgusting, embarrassing…all that. That Wednesday, I posted this on my blog: http://aileengoeson.com/2016/11/09/to-my-beloveds-on-the-day-after-election-2016/.
    These days I find I’m on edge as the Obamas prepare to leave the White House. It’s like watching the sand drain from an hourglass–agonizingly steady and no way to slow the eventuality of it.
    (Glad to have found your blog! I’m a follower now!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll read your post tonight for sure–thanks for sharing!!! Nice analogy about the sand drain–that’s EXACTLY what this feels like. I haven’t written to a president since second grade but I’m thinking of sending a Thank You/Please Don’t Leave card to the Obama family. They have been such an inspiration. I wish my daughter could spend her childhood years with them in office, still…my only consolation is to know Trump will be out before she knows any better. 😉

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