Last night was gutting. I won’t lie. I’ve seen friends I care deeply about worry for a year about what would happen to them if Donald Trump became president. The basis of their worries, the genesis, was in speech from the candidate himself.
Speech about Mexicans. Speech about immigrants. Speech about sexual assault. Speech about women. Speech about the disabled.
But today, today is a new day. And this is partly for people I care about that are having a hard time with this, and also for people that aren’t.
To my friends who have friends and family who are hurting:
So you’re certain that your life will not change much. That’s fine. Maybe it won’t. I hope it won’t – just like I hope mine won’t. But some of your friends and family members are hurting right now.
Believe them. Don’t play devil’s advocate. Don’t insist that the country will make it through this and they will, too. Yes, it may be a pep talk, but right now, it is tantamount to walking up to a recent widower and saying, “Hey! Now you can get remarried!” or walking up to bereaved parents and saying, “Now you can make another baby!”
It’s not time. It’s not time for this. Let your friends grieve. Let them process this. Let them watch warily as the months and years unfold and confirm for themselves that everything will be OK. Because, after all, you don’t know either.
Muslims are now wondering if Trump was serious. People with pre-existing conditions are now wondering if they will be jettisoned by their insurance company. People with disabilities just watched their president-elect mock them. Kids at Tiny’s school are already asking if they’re going to be sent away – or what will happen to them if their parents are sent away. Women who have been raped are now watching a man who is not only accused of rape but also described on tape how he did it become president. Imagine watching your rapist take the oath of office and move into the White House.
It’s a lot. And you need to allow them to let it be a lot. And if you can’t understand why it’s a lot, silence – blessed silence – is the gift you can give them. But if you really, really love them, you’ll be able to disengage from your privilege and hear them out. Let them speak. Let them heal without the threat of you pulling your support or love.
Don’t silence them when they voice their fears or frustration. Don’t tell them to cheer up. Because you know what that sounds like? Don’t tell them to be strong when they don’t feel strong. Because you know what that sounds like? It sounds like this: “Please quit talking about your feelings because they’re bothering mine.”
Telling someone they are strong or brave while they’re voicing their fears isn’t always affirming. If your friend or family member says it’s not helpful, it’s because right now they don’t feel strong or brave. They are crying out for your help. They need YOU to be brave and strong – brave and strong enough to listen, to be there, even if it might prick you or unnerve you. Be strong for them, or be honest. “I am having a hard time listening to this. Can I choose to tell you I love you, and always will, but need time to process your feelings in relation to mine?”
It’s as simple as that.
And now for the folks who I love that are hurting:
I am with you. So many others are. Take care of yourself. If you need to shut down social media for a while, do so – but please find at least one person you can reach out to regularly that values your feelings and loves you.
You are strong. We both know this. But there is no requirement that you have to be strong all the time. There is no sin in saying right now, you don’t feel strong. You don’t feel resilient. You don’t feel vast reserves of patience and calm.
Grit can come later. Take your time. Do what feels healing to you, and on your timetable.