No Way! No *@&!ing Way! Please No! Oh No! OK, Let’s Do This. : SCC Community Experiences the Five Stages of Grief After the Election of Donald Trump

By Coral Nafziger

Observing the SCC community react to the election, I see people grappling with several different strong emotions. Eberth Arias, SCC’s student government sustainability officer, says he sees this, too. In particular, he sees that people are angry.

Arias says he came in to SCC the morning after the election despite his schedule not normally bringing him to campus early on Wednesdays. He says he felt compelled to come and digest the election results with other people and participate in the election debriefing held by the Student Leadership Center. (For more on the debriefing, see Blindsided and Angry)

At the election debriefing, Arias shared his thoughts about how everyone is having their own reactions, and they have the right to their feelings, whatever they are. He urged, though, that people don’t get stuck in emotions such as anger, fear, or hopelessness and give up. Instead Arias encouraged people to channel their feelings toward action.

The range of emotions on campus have reminded several people at SCC of the five stages of grief that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed in 1969. The five stages of grief are sometimes criticized because they are based on observation rather than scientific research. Although they are not backed by solid evidence, many people find them helpful, and believe they can give us insight into the grieving process.

According to Kübler-Ross, the stages of grief are not a timeline that each grieving person will go through, rather they are all common experiences for bereft people. Some on SCC’s campus have pointed out that the grieving process will also be impacted by current events as we learn more about what it means to have Donald Trump as the president-elect.

Although Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief reflect what I have seen and heard on SCC’s campus, it seems necessary to add another stage, fear, in order to give the full picture. Many at SCC are scared. In talking to people about this election, reasons for being fearful run a huge gamut including physical violence, losing reproductive rights and cuts to social services and healthcare. (For more on fear evoked by Trump’s elections, see A Culture of Fear)

Five Stages of Grief at SCC

→ Denial

“I was in denial (on) Tuesday night,” SCC political science teacher Terry Taylor said about watching the presidential election results come in. Many at SCC said their first reaction to the election was shock, with others saying that it didn’t seem real at first.

→ Anger

When people in the SCC community responded to the written prompt, “How do we feel?” at the debriefing of the election, someone simply wrote, “Fuck.” This person and many others are angry.
Students at the debriefing also spoke about active resistance. Although she doesn’t plan to act on it, SCC student Mariya Greenfield described her anger after the debriefing, saying, “In one way I just want to, you know, burn a couple of cars, destroy a couple of bank windows or something.”

→ Bargaining

Hoping the Electoral College will choose not to elect Trump is one way people at SCC are bargaining. People in this stage want to find any way possible to prevent the inevitable.
Another common method of bargaining is asking for divine intervention.

→ Depression

Disempowerment, alienation and embarrassment are all feelings being talked about in the SCC community. Many missed class in the days after the election due to despondency. The depression stage can be about feeling overwhelmed and overpowered.

→ Acceptance

“Relax and enjoy the ride,” was a comment written by someone in our community in response to being asked, “What do we do?” after the election. That is one way to experience acceptance.
More in line with Eberth Arias’ idea of using emotions to propel action, at their Nov. 10 meeting, SCC’s Feminists United club discussed the actions they could take. They talked about attending protests, informing others about the importance of local elections and collaborating with other groups at Shoreline. This is a way of accepting Trump’s election and planning a reaction.

For many in our community, the last two weeks have been emotional. There is no way to know what a Trump presidency will look like, but if the election is an indication, a lot of feelings will be felt. Once time has passed, will these feelings turn to hopelessness, apathy or bog people down in grieving?

“Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!” is a popular quote from labor activist, Joe Hill, who was sentenced to death by firing squad a little over one hundred years ago. That sentiment — encouragement to use feelings to ignite action — is part of what is being said on campus by Arias and many others.