Stop Telling Me To “Get Over It”: Why Trump’s Win Feels Like My Husband Died All Over Again

In probably one of the truest statements I have ever heard about grief, author C.S. Lewis says of his wife’s death, in the first line of his brilliant book: A Grief Observed, “Nobody ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.”

Yes. And nobody ever told me that a Trump-President-elect, felt so much like grief.

On the morning of Wednesday, November 9th, 2016, around 4:30 am, I was jarred awake by the sounds of my TV, still on from just hours before, when in my half-sleep and dazed state, I could have sworn I heard that Donald Trump had been elected by the electoral college, our new President. No. But that can’t be true. That must have been some insane dream I had, like the one I had the week before where I slept with Brad Pitt and he was really bad in bed. This was like that, right? This wasn’t a real thing. Right? My heart kept pounding as Trump’s orange-tinted face smirked on my TV, with the words “President Elect” underneath his “huuuuge” mug, and my hands shook with terror. What was happening? I tried to get out of my bed, but I couldn’t get my footing. It was like, suddenly, I had forgotten how to walk. I was breathing differently too. Thinner. Catching each inhale as if I was shocked by it. My eyes were blurry and they hurt, and I had that feeling like the world had just ended, or was ending, or like I didn’t comprehend which world I was living in. I sat on the edge of my bed and just sobbed. More sobbing. Still more. Then, the feeling of exhaustion from the sobbing. This was then followed by feeling as if I had just swallowed a nail, but the nail was stuck inside me, and so I couldn’t swallow. Just trying, over and over again, to swallow.

And that was when it hit me.

I know this feeling.

On the morning of Wednesday, July 13, 2011, around 6:30 am, I was jarred awake by the sounds of my phone ringing, over and over and over again. My husband Don and I had just gone to bed a few hours earlier, I think. I still don’t really remember the details of that previous night, except that he had left around 4:30 am to go to his second job at the local Pet Smart, helping out with pet adoptions, feeding kitties, and stocking pet food. He did this a couple days a week, when he was off from his regular job as a paramedic. He always wanted to let me sleep when he had to leave that early, so I was sleeping when he left. I never said good morning. Never said see you tonight. Never said anything. That phone just kept ringing. I got up and checked my voicemail, and had 3 urgent-sounding messages from Palisades Hospital, down the street. Why are they calling me? That’s weird. When I called them back in my groggy state, they would only say: “You need to get here now. We have your husband.” “Why do you have my husband? He just left for work 2 hours ago. I don’t understand.”

The rest of that day plays out like a horror film in my brain, and I can’t quite make out the details, but somehow I called myself a cab and then found myself running into the E.R. waiting room. A gaggle of nurses and one doctor surrounded me in a small, private room, and asked me to please sit down. I started shouting the word “NO!!!! No, no, no, no, no!!!! ” before they could even get to the punchline. “Cardiac arrest. He was rushed here by ambulance. We did everything we could. He didn’t make it. We are so sorry.” My beautiful husband, age 46 and the best person I ever knew, was dead. And the life I knew was gone.

Now, please understand that I am NOT saying that Donald Trump becoming President-elect is even close to the same thing as my husband’s death, nor am I saying that it’s even close to as painful. NOTHING will ever be as painful and as life-altering for me, than my husband’s sudden death. Nothing. What I am saying, however, is that there is a very real and very surprising similarity in emotions, feelings, and reactions with these election results – and the morning that I woke up and my husband was already dead. And I am absolutely not alone in feeling this way. Several of my widowed friends, and friends who have lost other people they love to death, have told me: “It feels like he died again”, or “I feel like I’m grieving. This feels so much like a death, and I didn’t expect that at all.”

Yes. I did not expect this at all. I didn’t expect my husband to die until he was really old. This was a man that literally never called in sick to work, ever. (He called out for 3 days when his cat died, because he couldn’t stop crying or get out of bed.) And yet, he died. Just like that. In an instant.

I did not expect Donald Trump to ever be elected President. Not ever. This was a man who ran a fake board-room and fake-fired people for a fake-company on a reality-show about a fake apprentice. This was a man who produced beauty pageants and owned failed casinos and liked to golf and be rich and lived in a gold Tower. This was a man with orange skin and tiny hands who called women “pigs” and insulted just about every race, culture, and group of people, during his campaign. This was a man who refused to show us his tax returns, and doesn’t pay taxes. This was a man that none of the living Presidents endorsed, and who IS endorsed by the KKK and various other hate groups. This was a man who was known for not paying his own workers, for multiple bankruptcies, for being sued multiple times for fraud, and for taking people’s money to attend his fake University. This was a man who has zero years or experience in government or politics. And yet, he is President-elect. Just like that. In an instant.

So yes, for a lot of us out there, this feels very much like another death. It feels like grief. It is grief. But why? Why is it grief? Why is it so personal to so many people? Because this is not about politics. This actually has very little to do with politics. For many of us – for minority groups, for people of color, for Latinos, for Muslims, for LGBTQ-people, for sexual assault survivors, for many women – this is about our lives. This is about survival. It’s about people no longer feeling welcome in their country. It’s about people feeling the tone of hate and racism, rearing it’s ugly head. It’s about a gay couple finding a note on their car windshield that says: “Can’t wait for Trump to take away your rights. Your love is sick.” It’s about my friend’s 10-year old daughter getting pushed to the ground at recess by a group of boys, as they laughed and yelled: “Ha ha! Grab her by the pussy!”,and: “Trump that Bitch!” It’s about my college students of color, being forced to “call out black” from class, because they were threatened and told to “Stay in your dorms, niggers!” by some drunk Trump supporters “celebrating” their victory. It’s about school children chanting “Build that wall!” at immigrant students, while sitting in the cafeteria. It’s about my Jewish colleague-friends finding a Swastika and the words “Trump is our Hitler!” spray-painted on their garage door. It’s about people, real people – being bullied, harassed, assaulted, pushed, demeaned, and threatened. It’s about fears of losing civil rights, basic women’s rights to things like healthcare and birth-control. Fears of being deported. Fears of losing marriage-equality rights. Fears from my HIV-positive friend, or my friend with multiple life-threatening diseases, who will lose her Obamacare insurance, which pays for her $4,000 per month medications to keep her alive. Fears about this man, who has run a campaign built on hate, who has the temperament of a 5-year old, who has vowed to ship out 11 million immigrants, “ban” all Muslims, and repeal the Affordable Care Act, reverse marriage-equality laws, and “punish” women who get abortions.

It’s about my friends.

So when you say, in your accusatory tone, “Why are you getting so upset over politics? Your side lost. Get over it!”, you are asking me to “get over” everything I just said above. You are asking me to just “get over” hate. No. I will not. I cannot. It’s not possible, and there is no such thing.

And when you said, after my husband died, in your accusatory tone, “Why are you still upset about this? He died 2 / 3 / 4 (insert period of time here) years ago. Get over it!”, you were asking me to just “get over” love. No. I will not. I cannot. It’s not possible, and there is no such thing.

So yes, this is a form of grief, and it is very personal. A lot of my friends are in very real danger of their lives changing drastically because of this election. And truthfully, white males in this country, who have the “privilege” that comes with being white and male – it is insulting to hear you say things like: “Whoever the President is, it won’t affect my daily life. I will still get up and go to work everyday and come home and have dinner with my wife and put my kids to bed.” Well, hurray for you! It sure is nice when racism and sexism and other “ism’s” don’t make any real dent in your life. What about the millions of familes that are made up of immigrants, people of different races, same-sex parents and couples? Do you really not realize that not everyone can say the same thing? That these results WILL affect the daily lives of a whole slew of people, in very big ways? That everything they know and love and count on, is now on the brink of changing, or being taken away? Think about it.

As for me personally, in addition to being widowed at age 39, I am also a rape survivor. So yes, electing a man into office to represent our country – who has been accused by 11 different women and counting of assault, who feels it is okay to grab women whenever you feel like it, and who refers to women using words like “pig” and “disgusting” – is something that is making me nauseous and sick lately. For me, hearing him say these things, and especially hearing him insult the women who accused him of these crimes, by implying that they were not “attractive enough” to be raped – it sends chills down my spine. Hearing this man speak makes me feel sick to my stomach, and the things he says about women and TO women, are oddly similar to the things my rapist said to me. The idea of him representing our country is not only frightening, it’s sickening. He does not respect women. He will not fight for women. He will not fight for anyone, really. But he will continue to demean and exploit women in that special way that he knows how to do best. In addition to that, this man and his sexual assault accusations – they transport me back to that time right after it happened to me, 20 years ago. That feeling of invisibility. That feeling of being totally unsafe. I feel unsafe now, in this Trump America. I feel unsafe.

So yes, this feels personal. And yes, when people very close to me, people in my own family, know the specifics and the horrifics of my rape, and what I went through – and they know my feelings about Trump as a human being – and yet, they decide to vote for him anyway – I will not lie. That hurts. If what I went through is not reason enough to NOT support him, that feels bad to me. And at some point, I have to come to a place of peace with it, because I love my family and I cannot let this tear us apart. But please know that it will take some time, and it is not easy for me. This election, and this man, has brought up so many unexpected triggers and emotions and feelings of intense grief and pain for me, and right now, I need to be around others who understand that pain. Just like when I lost my husband, I needed to be around others who lost theirs too. This is the same thing for me. Like-minded and like-hearted people, and their stories, are the only thing right now that is giving me any sense of hope.

So, dear friends and people of earth who voted for Trump, when you reduce these very real and painful emotions I am having and my friends are having and half of a nation is having, to “whining” or “being spoiled brats because we didn’t get our way!” or whatever else you think this is, that is insulting and completely untrue. This JUST happened. The election was literally 3 DAYS ago. People react and grieve and cope differently. Please don’t tell us how to act. Don’t tell us to stop posting things on our Facebook pages, or to “deal with it, because we dealt with Obama for 8 years!”, when all I heard for the past 8 years was total and complete lack of respect for our current President and the First Lady. Do not lecture me about how I need to show respect for Trump, when you spent every waking hour calling our President and his wife unspeakably racist and horrid things. Do not tell me how to deal with this, when you have no idea what I’m going through or what this brings up for me, or how emotional this is for me.

Perhaps some empathy would be better. Perhaps you should give us a second or two – give us some time – to process that this has actually happened. The man is not our President until January 20th. Please allow us some space to let this all sink in. Let us grieve. Believe me, we are just as surprised as any of you, at how deeply this is affecting us. We did not expect this to happen. We did not expect to be grieving on such a personal level, or to find ourselves sobbing in the middle of the day for no reason other than feeling the gaping hole of emptiness, or feeling isolated, terrified, misunderstood, alienated. Nobody ever told us, that Trump would feel so much like grief.

So please don’t condemn us. Don’t call us childish. Please don’t compare this to that time when you had to deal with Obama in the White House. This is not the same thing. It’s just not. Have some heart. Reach out to the other side. Don’t gloat or lecture or ridicule people who are already scared. We are scared. We are fragile. We have good reason to be. And please know that every single one of us, who does not support this man, hopes upon hope, that we are WRONG. I hope every day that I am somehow wrong about him – and that he is a highly successful President. It’s just that, deep down, in that place where you can feel things very intensely, I really don’t think that I’m wrong about this. But either way, we just ask you sincerely – to be nice. Be kind. Give us time. Space. Let us adjust to this in our own way. Let us come to terms with this. For me personally, I will accept this man as our President, because I believe in democracy, and I believe in our process, no matter how flawed it may be. I will accept this outcome, but I need some time to wrap this around my head. I need to “sit with it”, as my grief-counselor likes to say. So please, Recognize that for some of us, a good number of us, this is a grieving process. We need to find our own path to healing.

And if, after reading this, you still think this is about politics, you haven’t heard a word I’ve said, and you need to start listening.

Thank you.

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16 thoughts on “Stop Telling Me To “Get Over It”: Why Trump’s Win Feels Like My Husband Died All Over Again

  1. I, too, am a widow who continues to grieve every second of every day. I am sorry for the loss of your husband and I am sick over what happened to you 20 years ago. If you are interested in the other side of this terrible divide, I will give you my perspective. If you want to censor me and delete my post, that’s okay. I say this because I have found liberals to be extremely hostile toward any opposing opinion. I’m hoping that you will be more tolerant.

    To those who are in the process of going off the deep end, put on a life preserver. We are not going to suddenly become Nazi Germany. Trump is not going to be scaring little kids in their classrooms. He’s done a pretty good job raising 5 of his own. Is he going to be assaulting women in the White House? Probably not but, if he does, Bill Clinton and John Kennedy could give him some pointers.

    To those who think Trump isn’t qualified to be president, no one is qualified to be president. There’s no other job like it in the world. Is Donald Trump flawed? Yes. But every president we’ve ever had has been flawed. The only difference between Trump and the others is they hid their flaws behind a carefully orchestrated facade. Trump hasn’t done that. He lets everyone see exactly who he is. Is that really a bad thing? Are we so used to being tricked, manipulated and lied to that we’ve come to like it?

    For those who think this is a sexist country, you should vacation in Afghanistan. To those who think we’re racist, at least we’re a work in progress. We should be so lucky with reverse racism. On the news, I watched a female protester warning us that people will have to die in order to effect change. No one sees the irony in this? She’s protesting because she is afraid of Trump. We should be afraid of her.

    We have thousands of students who are so distraught over the election that they can’t attend classes and can’t bear to take their exams. How did this insanity happen? It happened because they all got trophies when they were little, win or lose. They can’t accept defeat. They don’t even know how to spell it. I get that people are upset. I’ve been upset over a number of presidential elections myself but I didn’t go crazy.

    The morning after the election, I read an article titled, “What Do We Tell the Children?” Instead of telling them not to be scared; instead of telling them they will be protected…

    You tell them that the days of political correctness are probably over. You tell them that they will no longer have to worry about offending someone if they say the word, “American.” If they don’t understand, then you may have to elaborate a little. You might indicate that the Constitution of the United States of America does not guarantee them the right not to be offended.

    You tell them that the elite establishment finally has to share the spotlight with the forgotten middle class. You explain that everyday Americans – construction workers, waitresses, parking garage attendants, office workers and the like jumped in at the last minute to give CPR to what was almost, “The Late Great America.”

    These everyday workers, better known as, “We, the People,” who are struggling to get by in an unfriendly economy, said loud and clear that they do not want to be Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Canada or China. They are not socialists. They are Americans and they want to stay Americans. They are not interested in being citizens of the world. They want a strong military, they want borders, they want their veterans and police treated with respect and they don’t want to have to work two jobs while others, for political reasons, get a free ride.

    Although it may be difficult, you tell the children that we will no longer have a president telling the rest of the world that America has been nothing but a bully all these years. You’ll have to tell them that the bully persona was just a bad Halloween costume.

    You’ll have to explain that behind the mask lies the real America: the liberator. The America that has rescued millions and millions of people from tyrannical dictators, while asking for nothing more in return than the land needed to bury its dead. Don’t worry. Children are resilient. It might take a while but, eventually, they will come to accept that they live in the greatest country the world has ever known. The question is, will their parents?

    • Hi Anne. Im so sorry for your loss also. I am not going to delete or censor you. I dont believe in censorship. The only comments I ever have deleted were people that responded incredibly rude or threatening to me. Your post is your take -your side – your opinion – and you were kind about it – and I welcome that. I do believe that if we are ever going to have a chance at understanding each other , we need to start talking to one another, and more importantly – we need to start listening to where other people are coming from.

      So, with that being said, Im not going to debate you on your opinions – at least not right now – Im too exhausted emotionally right now to do that. I may come back at a later time and respond more to what you said. I think you brought up some valid points, although I respectfully disagree on most of them, or just dont see things the same way that you do, and thats okay. But for now, I wanted you to know that I heard you,and that Im listening.

      My post was mainly addressing the WHY of this election so feeling like grief to me – it was a feeling I did not expect or see coming, and many others have had it too – so I thought it would be therapeautic to write about that. THank you so much for reading.

      • anne i agree with some of what you are saying . im canadian so i dont know muh about american politics so im not going to get into it because i dont have the facts. i do agree about the middle class people having a voice. here where i live you are either rich or poor there is no in between. most people work 2 jobs just to stay afloat .rents are sky high so for the ” average joe ” we are struggling . myself i know i am. i just dont agree with some things he says and does. honestly i just dont like him. i think he is a sexist, racist pig. lets see how that plays out in the presidency. sorry for your loss anne. you are not alone in your grieving . xx

      • Kelley, your reply is so typical of you — graceful and kind even when facing a hateful, ignorant post. I am thinking about you. Like you, I am terrified for our country under this sociopath. Anyone who is well educated and thoughtful is similarly terrified. God help us all.

  2. Okay, Kelley, here is my reply. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    1. Trump is already scaring kids.

    2. I don’t care if he assaults women in the White House or outside of it – he has already admitted to doing so, and that alone should have prevented him from becoming president. That fact that he won shows just how little value women hold in America. And how little many value themselves.

    3. It’s not “showing everyone exactly who he is” that’s the bad thing – who he IS, is the bad thing. And he doesn’t care.

    4. You shouldn’t measure the level of sexism in your country against one that doesn’t claim to have freedom or equality. “Hey, they are worse” is a pretty awful method of gauging ones own success. It is rather meaningless.

    5. We can’t tell the children that they all will be protected when we don’t know if they or their parents will be.

    6. You may think the country is too political correct, but what that sounds like is “I want to be able to hurt people and not take any responsibility for it.” When I hurt someone’s feelings, I try to learn to do better next time, not blame them for their emotions. By all means, offend others as you wish – but just as people don’t have a right to not be offended, you don’t have a right to offend without consequence.

    7. It is really, really sad if people don’t want to be citizens of the world. (That is actually a pretty juvenile approach to life) Or be more like socially-minded countries that have better education, happiness levels, health, etc.

    8. America is not, by any measurable method, the best country in the world. Sorry to say.
    I think it has potential to be a great country, though. I think a good starting point would be to improve the ol’ education system. That is pretty much ground zero.

    9. I actually think America has too great a divide in opinion of what people want it to be, and it should probably be split int more than one country.

    10. Everyone really needs to go watch some Pochahontas.

  3. 1. Trump isn’t scaring kids. Their parents are scaring them.

    2. A large percentage of women voted for him. Because they voted for him, they don’t value themselves? That would make you sexist, would it not?

    3. You shouldn’t believe everything the drive-by media tells you. Were you paying attention to all the awful things Hillary had to say about different groups of people behind the scenes? Not a role model I would want for my daughters.

    4. Sorry, but I get pretty sick of Americans constantly bashing America.

    5. What are you scared of exactly? War? Because that’s already happening. A high murder rate? That’s happening, too. Terrorism? Definitely alive and well. Going broke due to health insurance? Yep. Government corruption? Already there. Police officers being murdered? Left and right. Bullying? Check. Loss of jobs? We’ve got that locked down. A tanking economy? Absolutely. Being discriminated against for your religion, political views, sexual orientation, race? Copy that. So tell me, what are you afraid of that is not already happening?

    6. “Offend” is subjective. One can say something that might offend one person and not another person and, actually, we do have the right to “offend.” It’s called the First Amendment.

    7. New World Order? Again, no thank you.

    8. Education is a problem because the federal government took it over. It belongs back with the states like it used to be. Not the greatest country in the world? If you are not an American, you get a pass. If you are, how sad for you.

    9. Oh, good. Another Civil War.

    10. I would rather watch the news.

    • 1. No, it’s not just parents scaring kids. Some actually are listening to him, and him alone.

      2. Yes, I would argue that some women have been conditioned to not value themselves and fellow women in comparison to men. It is reflective of the culture that has never made women fully equal, so it really isn’t that surprising.

      3. I don’t need the media to tell me how to think.

      4. I am not an American bashing America. But I have no problem being critical of the negative things happening in my own country. I don’t need to pretend it is okay just because someone else has it worse.

      5. Seriously? You don’t know why some kids are scared?

      6. I did not say that you didn’t have the right to offend. Of course you do. What I said was that you don’t have the right to offend without consequence. That is not what the First Amendment protects.

      7. The US is already a citizen of the world. It is not going back, nor should it.

      8. I guess I get a pass. Although I also wouldn’t argue that my country is the best in the world, either. Why would I pretend something when evidence suggest it isn’t true? What would you?

      9. Yeah, I don’t want another civil war either. But I find your country spends so much time arguing with itself that, in theory, I think you’d be better off apart. In practice is different.

      10. Now who is relying to heavily on the media? 😉

  4. Anne, I thought I should let you know…while I mostly seem like I am responding to you, I am not intending to seem like I am attacking you. You aren’t saying anything that others haven’t already said…you just happen to be the one posting here :)

  5. Anne Benedetto, why are you posting on Kelley’s blog? Go post on a white supremacist hate site, since that is clearly where your predilections lie. How crazy that you would say the “economy is tanking.” Hello, the economy went south in 2008, under the very Republican George W. Bush, who also ran up the deficit to record levels after Clinton/Gore had balanced it. The economy has improved exponentially under President Obama. I could take on every other of your extremely ignorant remarks, but you are not worth it. Donald Trump has never shown any indication that he cares at all about middle-class and lower-income people — if you disagree with this, take a look at his proposed budget — yup, the rich get even richer, the poor get poorer. Yes, he won, but he didn’t win the popular vote, and he won the states that are least educated, are the most intolerant, have the most people on assistance (ironic)… it goes on and on. We all have to live with this, but how dare you write such a hate-filled post when you know how much Kelley has been through regarding men who hate women? You and your kind need help.

  6. Alexis, I, too, am a widow and posted in response to Kelley’s take on the election. I was not hateful at all. Even Kelley said that I was kind. I have followed Kelley’s blog for a long time and have posted about our shared widowhood in the past. I’m hateful and a white supremacist? Wow. Don’t worry, I won’t be back, now that I know there is only one acceptable viewpoint to everything – yours. I’m sorry, Kelley, I wish you peace and much happiness. Good luck with finishing your book – I’m sure it will be wonderful. As for you, Alexis, you want to see hateful? Find a mirror and take a good long look at yourself.

  7. Beautifully written! I’m so sorry about your husband. That’s a very real, very difficult loss to cope with & nobody should ever expect you to “just get over it.” You will mourn on your own schedule & its not anyone’s place to tell you when or how to do it.

    With that being said, I admire your maturity when it comes to Trump. I wish I could be more like you, but I’m done trying to reason with his supporters & I’m not going to give them the arguements they’re so desperately looking for. My mom had a saying growing up, “You can’t argue with ignorance.”

    I’ve also found it incredibly ironic that for a group of people who claim to be anti-PC & tell everyone to stop getting offended, they sure do get offended a lot. I mean, come on now. You say ONE thing about Trump & they start in with the “shut up you special snowflake LIBARD la la la I can’t hear you la la la I’m right you’re wrong nana nana boo boo!” Doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Libertarian, Independant, Green Party or Nonpartisan. If you don’t agree, you’re just a “dumb liberal” that hates America.

    Parents act like they have no control over their children. They want to blame schoolw, trophies, tv, music & every other damn thing other than themselves. If your child grew up to be an entitled little brat, that’s on YOU. If all these parents really cared about participation trophies, why didn’t they stop it? Why didn’t they attend a PTA meeting? Oh yeah, that’s right. They didn’t care enough to. The only people that need to be taking the blame for how millenials turned out, is their parents. That’s what you get for expecting teachers to raise them. You can’t act like an entire generation of people turned out to be this way just because of a cheaply made trophy. Get real.

    Anyway, my rant is over with. Keep up the great writing & stay strong! Lots of people love your articles & cant wait to see more.

    • thank you so much, I appreciate you saying all of that. And I agree with you about everything you said. The other thing thats so ironic about the whole “special snowflake” thing, is that THEIR LEADER (Trump) Is THE BIGGEST special snowflake of all. His “safe space” is Twitter and Trump Tower. UGH.

  8. anne benedetto ,
    i like your message and i respect how gracious you were about it . political correctness needs to die an immediate and proper death . our nation is literally in flames and no one is permitted to speak about what they are seeing . we need law and order and personal accountability and we need it now instead of later .

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