While my 4-year-old daughter still sleeps, before I tell her anything, I’ll take stock of what happens for me now—mourn for however long it takes, because mourning is a natural and expected part of healing. Mourn until sadness has run its course. Stay down until the emotional time is right to get back up. Accept the outcome and try to understand why so many white, working class people who voted for Obama and hope in 2008 and 2012 switched this time around, and voted for someone peddling hatred and despair. Try and place myself in their shoes to the extent that I can.
When she finally wakes up—perhaps yelling out for Mommy and Mama from the comfort of her warm bed, or running into the kitchen hugging her loyal Minnie Mouse doll—and asks about the election results, I’ll tell her Donald Trump won. That this is okay. I’ll hug her and let her know we live in a country that thankfully allows us to vote every two years, plus every four years, and that there are millions of people, our family included, who will continue working for justice and equality in America, who seek to understand the sources of difference and divisiveness, who want to bring people together. That if we keep trying, we can do anything, no matter how long it takes. We’ll celebrate our big local and state victories—our district supervisory race, the U.S. Senate, and measures to ensure a better quality of life for many, many people.
I’ll tell her that Hillary Clinton brought a lot of people together, and I’ll let her know how smart, hard working, and kind she is. I’ll tell her that Donald Trump gave a nice acceptance speech, because “nice” is language a 4-year-old can relate to and run with. I’ll tell her that the best possible thing we can do when we’re feeling sad is to let ourselves have our feelings, then get back up and do the necessary things to continue making our city, our country, and the world a wonderful and just place.
Then, when the dust settles and the grief passes from the stages of my denial, anger, and sadness into our family’s promise and ability to keep going, and our acceptance of the status quo, we’ll do what so many of our mentors, role models, and heroes have always done—keep moving forward. Plan, build, and bind. Get back up.