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Stanford University School of Medicine

Forgiveness after an election loss: Grieving and anger are normal, for a while

One of the great things about writing for a living is that when I experience something in my own life, I can use that as an opportunity to reach out to experts on the subject. Last week after the election I was like many people, having a hard time sorting through my feelings. So, I called Fred Luskin, PhD, a lecturer at Stanford with a long history studying and writing about the value of forgiveness.

I asked him why people have such a hard time accepting a loss after an election. He told me that humans feel safe when they are surrounded by people who share their views. “It’s quite challenging to be in a world where one’s strongly held views are repudiated,” he said.

As for the anger many people feel after an election loss, he said that’s normal — for a while. That anger becomes a problem only when it becomes a way of life. In my Q&A with him, Luskin said:

You have to recognize that the feeling of being on the wrong side of any election is not just a result of having not got your way, but of the intensity that you place on your point of view triumphing. When we lose it feels wrong, our sense of control unravels and that’s when grieving begins.

Grieving and anger are what’s supposed to happen with loss and unwanted change. What’s not healthy is to hold on to anger about something that can’t change and is in the past. That’s when bitterness and hostility can become habits and limit our moving on and enjoying life.

He went on to talk about what it means to forgive and how the process of grieving and forgiving can get us to a place where we can continue fighting for what we believe in.

Previously: Learning to forgive with Fred Luskin, PhDA conversation with Stanford psychologist Fred Luskin on forgiveness and its health benefits and Practicing forgiveness to sustain healthy relationships
Photo by Nita

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