Ah, Election Day. That one day every four years when we stand in a really long line, surrounded by other people who hope that their voice will be heard. It’s comforting, in a way, to be around others who are taking time out of their lives to do something that they feel will impact their future, and the future of everyone they come into contact with. Some do it with a sense of excitement, some do it out of obligation, and others do it as a last ditch effort to change or continue the course of history.
Funny though, that we all check a box or touch a screen or punch a hole based on what we think may happen in the next few years. We’re counting on the fact that the person we are (hopefully) putting in charge will respond in the way we want on any given day, to any given set of circumstances. Obviously, this is not how things will actually play out. Even if the person we want to win does indeed win, we are then at the mercy of that choice for four long years. Four years that we can’t go back and say “No, wait a minute, that isn’t the choice I wanted to make after all. I have new information now. I’ve changed, and my beliefs on some things have changed as well.” Nope, we’re stuck with what we chose, no matter how much we may wish otherwise.
And that’s one of the cool things about grief. (Yep, I think there are some cool things about grief.) Each and every day, we get to choose how we want to move forward. If we are on a path that is working well, and bringing us a sense of peace and healing, we can choose to stay right there, and keep doing exactly what we’ve been doing. But if we aren’t doing well, if our choices have not led us in a direction we want to be going, we get to turn around, go in a different direction, or just pause to reassess.
We have no control over the fact that someone we thought we couldn’t live without did the unthinkable and died. We have no control over how other people will react to this news, or to how they may interact with (or avoid) us in the aftermath. We do have the luxury of complete control over what we do with that death, and the grief that we are left with. That’s easy to forget sometimes, as people around us try to tell us how and when to grieve, and by what time we need to “get on with our lives.” Other people fall all over themselves offering advice and platitudes and books and educational pamphlets about the five stages of grief, the seven steps to healing, and ten weeks to a happier, grief-free you.
And here’s another cool thing about grief: Those other people don’t get to vote on this particular issue. This is a huge decision, but one in which we each have the final say. Here in the Land of Grief, we are the sole dictators. We chose what stays, what goes, and which days we’ll just close up shop and go for a lovely walk outside. We get the only vote on how we choose to grieve and heal and live, and we get to vote over and over and over again as we slowly work out what we want the next 4 minutes, 4 months, and 4 decades to look like. We get to set our own timeline, choose which things we value, and decide which individuals aren’t really good allies after all.
As you watch the election returns, and either cheer or boo the final results, take some time to think about the votes you’re making in your own life right now. Are you giving yourself the permission to grieve the way you need to, even if that means different things on different days? Are you standing firm in your choices, and the choices you are making for your family? Are you living and grieving in a way that truly celebrates the memory of the person or persons you lost?
If you answered “no” to any of these, there’s one more cool thing about grief: You can start over right now, this very minute. You can lovingly support your family members when they need to do the same. And you can do that again every single day, until you feel your grief journey is taking you and those you love in a direction you want to go.
As we grieve and heal, our choices don’t have to be the perfect choices for the next four years. They just have to be the best choices we can possible make today, knowing what we know now. There’s always another chance to vote tomorrow.
Alisha Krukowski works and writes for Hello Grief and Comfort Zone Camp. You can read more of her work here.