Whoever you voted for, wherever is your political home, we each wake up this morning with an imperative to get to know our neighbor more and to understand more of what they felt was most at stake in the election so we may attend more adequately to one another. The imperative is not just because, after all, so many people feel right now they did not actually know their fellow citizens well or what mattered most to them. No, we must get to know one another more because a vast number of our fellow citizens are wounded today. If we do not attend to these wounds now, the wounds within our country only continue to fester.
Traumatologists know well, we cannot simply move on after severe losses or sudden and remarkable gains. We cannot simply forget the stress these experiences cause among individuals and groups of people. We cannot simply pretend the vast numbers of wounded are not really wounded. Congregations can play a significant role in the restorative work needed in the coming weeks.
- Self-care is critical. Take time to pay attention to how you personally feel about the election (whether celebratory or defeated) and attend to those reactions. Here are a few ways to do that: Take a day off. Exercise. Talk with people who care about you and be honest with them about how you are feeling, not just about the election but also about what you believe the results mean for you and what you care about most.
- Congregational care can make a difference for easing stress among the community. Create safe spaces among your coworkers to express their joys and concerns related to the election. If talking among one another safely is not possible for any reason, encourage your coworkers to find safe places to express themselves honestly with family, friends, counselors, or other health care professionals. Help your coworkers to know what community resources are available for them to refer members and attenders to as personal concerns arise among the congregation and community.
- If your congregation or ministry group may be split along voting lines, and you believe they are in need of some reconciliation, consider hosting a few congregational meetings over the next three – four weeks. If you do this, we recommend inviting respected leaders who represent both sides of the voting spectrum to share generally about how things may go in the days ahead and to answer practical questions for people. Be clear about how long the meeting will last and the purpose of the meetings, including how these are informational meetings and not meetings for expressing personal anxiety. Honor the fact that people, nevertheless, may be experiencing personal anxiety and point them in directions where they can receive care and attention. These types of informational meetings can help to metabolize a lot of built up energy in the congregational system, help members get to know each other more, and also help provided useful information for everyone.
- Host prayer meetings, or encourage small groups to be in prayer for one another, the community, and the country.
- Be mindful that this election brought up past traumas for many people who have now had those experiences reopened. Some of those experiences include: loss of jobs and careers, loss of savings, loss of housing, loss of businesses, loss of country, sexual abuse and assault, hate crimes, and severe bullying. The election also incited fears about the future for many, including: fear of increasing taxes on already stressed personal economies, fear of bullying, fear of abuse or assault, fear of loss of jobs or deportation, fear of loss of healthcare, to name just some. Create spaces – liturgically, in pastoral counseling, and among fellowship events – for people to express their senses of loss or fear and to consider together practical steps forward. Remind your coworkers, ministry leaders, and care leaders of what steps to take if someone expresses symptoms and is in need of immediate professional care.
- Likely, many people will experience fatigue in the coming days and weeks, along with any other symptoms, that arise due to senses of loss or rising fears. Encourage people to practice good self-care and to seek out mental health professionals as needed. Also, consider creating additional opportunities to gather for fellowship and service projects.
- Identify ways your congregation or ministry group experience together relief from concerns, whether in small ways or large ways. Allow people who experienced the election as a victory to express honestly what they understood to be at stake and how they feel things will progress in better ways. Allow people who experienced the election as a defeat to express honestly ways they do experience relief around them through friends, family, and your congregation or community.
*To learn more about trauma and healing among congregations and ministry groups, visit the ICTG Training menu. If you are interested in receiving coaching from an ICTG staff member, contact us by email here.