The Loser’s Grief

by Fernando Perfas

| Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

We often associate grief with the death of a loved one. However, grief or grieving happens to us not only over the loss or death of someone dear. Grief is a deep feeling of loss that affects us physiologically, emotionally, and cognitively. It takes on many forms. It may involve losing a job, a break-up of a relationship, i.e., divorce, separation, a falling out, etc., or giving up an object of obsession, losing a race, or defeat in an ideological battle. The amount of grief is directly proportional to the degree of emotional investment or value attribution to the object or idea lost.

In her classic book Death and Dying, the famous psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross outlines the following five stages of grief: (1) Denial – a state of disbelief and resistance to the facts; (2) Anger – characterized by outrage and blaming; (3) Bargaining – an effort to regain control or affect the outcome; there’s a lot of ‘what if” and “if only” statements; (4) Depression – dominated by a feeling of helplessness or hopelessness; and (5) Acceptance – which involves exploring options and effort to move on. Grieving is a process necessary to come to terms with a loss, accept reality, and move on in life. People who cannot fully grieve over a loss often experience lingering feelings of being stuck in time and not being “whole.” Grieving is healing the brokenness left behind by the loss of someone or something cherished with a sense of finality of the outcome.

The concept of loss and grief is a fitting framework to make sense of what happened and continues to happen among a vast number of people who voted for Trump in the last election. More than half a year later, many are still unable to accept his defeat in the election. The sense of loss continues to haunt them. They show signs of unresolved grief. Unable to accept defeat, Trump’s ardent followers manifest classic symptoms of denial, anger, and bargaining. The psychological imbalance that results from the loss renders them vulnerable to conspiracy theories that give them false hope and comfort. Steep in denial, some are easily swayed to take action and try to change the undeniable outcome. In total denial himself, Trump, with his rhetoric, eventually took them to the steps of the Capitol on that fateful day of January 6th.

“The concept of loss and grief is a fitting framework to make sense of what happened and continues to happen among a vast number of people who voted for Trump in the last election. More than half a year later, many are still unable to accept his defeat in the election. The sense of loss continues to haunt them.”

Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 election left me with a great feeling of loss. As a typical reaction of a grieving person, I was in a state of disbelief for a while. I blamed her campaign, Wikileaks, and the Russians for her election loss. However, Hillary’s graceful public acceptance of her defeat helped me and the millions of others who voted for her come to accept the finality of the outcome. Still shocked, angry and depressed, I stopped listening and watching the news for a while. It was my way of turning the focus back to myself and moving on with my life.

This time around, it is different. Millions of Trump supporters who deny his election loss are left hanging in the limbo of grief, enabled by Trump’s refusal to concede defeat. Incapable of grieving over his own loss, he gravitates toward close advisers who are themselves in denial. They help spin alternate narratives that provide false hopes and comfort to feed his fanbase. They cling to the most primitive stage of grief: denial. Trump and many of his supporters are stuck in a time warp of grief. They continually churn out fanciful hopes of a different outcome, such as endless voters’ recounts, Trump’s reinstatement, China’s magical thermometer that alters vote counts, and empty promises from all sorts of conspiracy theories, including media networks caught in the same time warp of grief.

“With urgency, it is what this country needs now to have a better fighting chance against the Covid-19 pandemic and make America great again. Will he ever find “the last ounce of courage” to rise above the human foible of mendacity?”

The tragedy of this mass hysteria over the failure to grieve, unfortunately, does not end there. The anger associated with unresolved grief is often displaced or misdirected to a person or event perceived to be the cause of grief. Everything associated with Biden and the Democrats is demonized and becomes convenient targets, including his policies. With Trump taking a passive-aggressive stance on anything that does not go his way, he has set the tone for his followers and politicians still beholden to him. This is where the outrage has become a self-inflicted wound on the country and its people. The vehement defiance thrown against the public health policy of the Biden administration to contain the pandemic defies reason. The antagonism assumes the cloak of an ideological battle. In fact, these are more convenient political posturing than standing on a principle.

What if Trump does the right thing for his people and the country, takes his loss, and concede publicly? What if he shows gratitude to those who still support him and tells them to move on with their lives, and most of all, encourages everyone to get vaccinated, like he did, with vaccines his administration has proudly produced in record time? The grief of loss and acceptance of defeat by the 74 million voted for him will be palpable. With urgency, it is what this country needs now to have a better fighting chance against the Covid-19 pandemic and make America great again. Will he ever find “the last ounce of courage” to rise above the human foible of mendacity?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR  Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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