Disbelief, disappointment, and fear, and why our work is more important than ever


Hi everyone. I usually don’t post except on Mondays, but I can’t sleep right now and I need to process the feelings of disbelief, disappointment, and fear that are swirling. I know just this week I said that things will be OK, that the Apocalypse is not coming, that no matter who is elected president, we will continue to do our work to build a stronger community. But I can’t feel those words right now. I just feel awful. And I don’t know how helpful or even coherent this post will be.

How did this happen? How did we get here? I am in a state of bewilderment. This is mixed with sadness and a profound sense of loss and grief. I know many of you are feeling the same way. We as a sector fight on the side of justice and inclusion. We are all invested in the kind of ideal world we want to build—many of us dedicate our lives to it—and because of that we feel things more deeply. To see our nation choose walls, divisiveness, xenophobia, sexism, and demagoguery over love, hope, diversity, and community is devastating.

And it is disappointing and painful that we wasted a critical opportunity to make history and inspire and give hope to millions around the world. The opportunity will come again, I am certain, perhaps even as soon as four years, but right now that seems so far away, so unreachable.

I also feel fear and dread. There will be those who say, “Your candidate lost. Get over it” or “It’s just four or eight years.” I don’t think they understand what may be at stake for a lot of marginalized communities, who are hurting, who are in fear for their and their children’s futures. I took a break from watching the news to read to my three-year-old and tuck him in, glad that he has not been affected by this election. We have a friend, though, with an older son who has been asking for days if he might get deported. He’s seven. I am fearful not so much for myself and my family, but for our friends who are Muslim, who are Latinx, who are Black, who are LGBTQ. One person I am close to, who is African American and who has been witnessing for years the injustice out there, told me, “I don’t know what safety looks like anymore.”

In light of all this, I don’t know how I can focus on work today. How do we have meetings, write grant proposals, run programs, enter names into the database, answer emails. How do we get back to normal when so many of us feel so distraught for ourselves, for our clients, for our entire society. 

I hope you are doing OK. But it’s OK to not be OK. It will take us a while to process this loss. Like in grief, we will go through phases, including anger and sadness. And we each process in different ways. Some of us need to talk and be in community. Some of us just want to be alone. If you need to focus on your work, that’s OK. And if you need to just stay home, or be with your family, please do that. If you feel like crying, you’re not alone. Half the country is in mourning. Let’s check in and be sympathetic with each other, but let’s allow each of us to process—or not—in whatever ways that are best for us.

Right now, I can’t offer much encouragement, because I honestly just feel like crap. I’ve had presidential candidates I supported who didn’t win, but I’ve never been as affected as I am by this particular loss. I know that eventually we will pick ourselves up, will continue our work, which is now even more urgent. We have to protect the progress we have made in marriage equality, gender equity, anti-racism, inclusion, climate change, and other social justice areas. We have to rally even more vigorously to mobilize our communities. We have to prepare now for the next election cycle. Our work to advance civic participation and social justice is more critical now than ever.

Eventually, like we always do, we will rise, and we will continue to build a stronger, more inclusive community. But right now, let us take care of ourselves and each other. Let us all allow ourselves to feel whatever we are feeling and do whatever we need to get some degree of healing. It will take a while; this is not a normal election loss for many of us, and we shouldn’t act as if it were.

I’m thinking of you, and I’m thankful for your work and for the community we build together.