In an article in the New York Times by Marisa Meltzer, December 10, 2016 Soak, Steam, Spritz: It’s All Self-Care wrote that Google searching for information on self-care “peaked in search interest popularity from November 13 through November 19, the largest increase in the last five years.”
I read the article with interest as I am a bit of a self-care expert as well as a self-proclaimed “Dr. Kevorkian of Dreams”. As I read about how folks were seeking methods of self-care, I wondered if Hillary was one of the people googling for guidance and if so, I had some guidance that might help her with her self-care in a more significant way than a bath, a meditation practice and/or an aromatherapy spray.
As we all know, Hillary’s life did not work out as she had planned. Like so many of us, Hillary, invested time, energy, resources, and a whole lot of money into making her dream a reality. While I dare not compare myself to Hillary, I do know a lot about disappointment on a major dream. I spent almost ten years, 100K, and went through a whole lot of pain, poking and prodding in order to have a much longed for baby---and all the prayers, pain, effort and egg stimulation led to an extremely disappointing outcome---I never had a child of my own. While my being childless, not by choice, is not even close to being in the same ballpark as Hillary not winning the presidency, my loss motivated me to learn a lot about the subject of life after loss. I have interviewed many people who gave up dreams of a career, a business, a marriage and a dream home--- there is a common pattern and path to go from their grief to their next happy.
I have compiled a super abbreviated self-care playbook for Hillary, and/or anyone else who is struggling with life not turning out as you planned, whether that be due to not winning the election, not having a long dreamed of child, a marriage falling apart or not getting the house of your dreams----whether or not the address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
1) Call the time of death on the dream
This one isn’t so easy but it is vital. Accepting the reality that the dream is over is hard to do. There are stages of this---starting with the behavioral (no longer acting on trying to make the dream a reality) to eventually moving into motivational death (losing the motivation), cognitive death (not thinking about it all the time) and eventually having emotional death (not having the same intense feelings about the dream).
This is hard to do when people on the sidelines keep insisting that you need to keep trying and that you should “never, ever, ever give up!” and that there is indeed a way to turn it around. Now I am not in anyway making commentary about what Hillary should or shouldn’t do, I am just saying that it is indeed an act of self-care and important in moving on, to say to yourself and others---I am done with this dream, I accept this reality. One of the most difficult things I ever did was accept the reality that I was never going to have a child of my own; it was also the beginning of a new life. My life began the day I stopped trying to conceive.
2) Grieve the dream
Allow yourself to feel all you feel. Cry. Scream. Yell. Let it out. Have a private temper tantrum. Stuffing your feelings and pretending you are fine is a sure fire way to not move on. We live in a culture where we aren’t so okay with grief. We judge people who are down for feeling so---but as a therapist, as a fellow griever of a dream, I can tell Hillary and anyone else who is grieving a dream that it is absolutely essential to allow the grief. Don’t let people push you to feel something other than you feel. No, you might not want to cry in public or on CNN, but you need time and space to have what is a total normal reaction to loss: sadness and anger.
3) Expect the ugly stepsisters of emotion to show up
There are emotions that are going to show up as you are grieving the dream that aren’t socially acceptable. We aren’t okay with people feeling anger and envy---but these feelings are a normal part of the grief of a dream. When we reject these feelings and beat ourselves up for having them, we are likely to trigger shame. For example, let’s say that Hillary had a whole lot of icky, angry and resentful feelings while she watched Mr. Trump get sworn into office---would you blame her? I don’t think you would. I wasn’t able to go to a baby shower for five years after giving up on my dream of being a mother, and Hillary has stoically RSVP’d to attend Mr. Trump’s swearing in. I would just invite Mrs. Clinton to expect that the ugly step siblings of emotions to be attending with her and to give herself a break for every less than magnanimous thought she has.
4) Get support
While there aren’t a lot of support groups for people who lost the election, no matter how obscure your demographic of grief is, there are people who will understand. It is a comfort to know that you aren’t alone in the grief. For Hillary, Al Gore might be a source of comfort—he knows this pain. For the rest of us, seeking a support group, therapy or any place where we can process the lost dream and fully allow our grief is important.
5) Don't too quickly get into a new dream
People love to tell us when you fall off the horse to get back on. Stay off the horse for a minute. When you are in active grief is not the time to make big decisions. Run again? Not run again? It isn’t the time to decide. I see again and again that when folks try to minimize their pain by too quickly mobilizing into a Plan B that they often exacerbate their grief.
6) Tell people to keep their clichés to themselves
It is likely that Hillary will here some of the following: "That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “Everything happens for a reason”, “Every cloud comes with a silver lining”. You have my permission Hillary, not that you need it, to tell them to keep their clichés to themselves and let them know that sometimes “Sh*t happens!"
7) Understand why you wanted it so much
I think Hillary has this one down, her vision was clear. But for the rest of us, it is important in moving on from an unrealized dream, to figure out just why we wanted that job, that relationship, that baby so darn much. Figuring out the why of the want is an important element of moving on from a lost dream.
8) Make space for your "Next Happy"
When we have done all of the above, having really given space for the grief and figured out why you wanted it so much, then it is time to start noticing where your energy is going, and what you want to do that isn’t so much a dream, but rather an interest. Letting yourself want something again and not too quickly turning it into an all consuming passion---lightly allowing yourself to want is how happiness starts to sneak in after the death of a dream. I was convinced that I could never be happy without what I wanted most, and I was wrong---and countless people I have interviewed who, like Hillary, had a single consuming passion for a single outcome, when forced to let go of that dream went on to a happiness they never could have imagined (even if for a time they thought they would never be happy without it)---it just takes time to get there, and it is unlikely she would reach that phase by January 20th.