By, Connie Palmer, Imagine Clinical Training Director
In presidential elections, the World Series, spelling bees and job interviews, there are winners and there are losers. And we like to win. We like to see our hard work pay off. After election day, there will be a winner and a loser. The winner and those who voted for him, will feel victorious. The loser of the election and all those who voted for that candidate will feel….grief. We have already been feeling so much loss because of the pandemic. The election will for some bring on yet another wave of grief.
Grief is what we feel when we lose in life. It’s a painful, but normal experience no matter what causes the loss. The word “loser”, while it just means someone who loses, has such stigma, such shame about it. No one wants to be a “loser”. But life is about learning how to be a winner and learning how to be a loser.
About twenty five years ago, I heard psychologist, Henry Cloud, speak. He spoke for about six hours. I have absolutely no memory of what he said during that talk. But what I do remember is a question that was asked during the Q&A portion at the end. A woman in the audience asked, “What’s the most important thing to teach young people?” The speaker paced the stage rubbing his chin for about two minutes, obviously taking the question to heart. His answer has stayed with me these many years later, “Teach them how to lose.” What if a loser is someone who has learned how to lose? What if the losses that happen in our lives are an occasion for further practice in this most difficult life lesson?
What lessons can we learn from children coping with loss?
- Difficult emotions create kinetic energy in our bodies. That energy has to be discharged before we can think clearly, express ourselves and cope in healthy ways. Discharging this energy can make it easier then to talk.
- Find people who are good listeners. Share your feelings and frustrations with them
- Know the most important thing is to TALK about feelings, and not ACT on feelings.
- Children at Imagine learn to channel their emotions into healthy ways of expressing themselves through words and art and by getting physical in a safe way such as working it out in our Volcano Room or getting physical on a basketball court.
The children and youth who come to Imagine, a Center for Coping with Loss, have experienced the death or illness of a parent, brother or sister. Imagine provides peer support groups for them and their parents. At Imagine children and adults learn how to lose. They learn ways to cope with the reality of their loss and the pain of their grief. They come to support one another. At Imagine, they find out that learning how to lose is not a lesson we can learn on our own. We need others to help us along the way.
Those grieving the results on Election Day can similarly come to a place of healing. They can learn ways to cope with the reality of their loss and the pain of their grief.
So how do we reset after November 3rd? How will we individually and collectively adjust to this new reality? If your particular response to the election results is grief, how will you cope and transform this grief in the best, healthiest and most productive way possible? If your response is celebration, will you be able to show empathy to those that have lost? After November 3rd, we all have an opportunity. We will either choose to move through this transition together, supported by one another, or retire to our corners and choose to struggle on our own. Let us learn from the children, and choose how to lose in healthy, constructive ways.
When children and adults learn how to lose, their grief is transformed into resilience, empathy and compassion. That is Imagine’s mission. Maybe in the days after November 3rd, we all have something to learn from the kids at Imagine.