An Update on Grief: How a Campaign Staffer Deals

It used to be, I could just turn off my phone.

But it’s been a couple months. There are emails from friends you neglected, the lease is up.

You grit your teeth when the interview starts with 15 minutes on why Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate.

I listen to dozens of people tell me they are ready to disrupt government or the Democratic party or elections and wonder if they even voted in the primary.

Other people lost and they write books and go to panels and convince everyone of their superiority and you wonder why you’re supposed to feel ashamed.

I try not to watch the news. I go to see Rogue One and start to bawl halfway through but don’t realize I’m crying until several minutes later. I don’t stop crying for the rest of the movie. I take up painstakingly cleaning the stains out of 100 year old antique linen I get when I go home, for the first time in years.

And, then, one day, an inauguration, a Women’s March, a Muslim Ban. At some point, I can’t opt out anymore.

I’m lucky enough to get a consulting contract with the DREAMers. I am not myself, I am not giving my best work, I find myself working overtime for absolutely no reason when no one is asking for it. I wonder when I will stop irrationally resenting people for sending me emails.

At a retreat, I listen to a fierce mujer tell her story. She speaks of raising her siblings when her parents were deported. Her voice doesn’t break as she talks about going to school in a trailer, away from the English speaking children. And she asks us to join her as she tells the story of the first time she fought back — when she joined a school walk out. I can tell she will bend but not break.

I am educated. I am privileged. I am successful. All I did was lose an election.

The shame I feel as she tells her story is so thick it fills me and comes out as tears. I shake my head, to dislodge the parts of my heart that are so broken that I want to make this about me. All I did was lose an election. We made this room of DREAMers, who have more courage in their fingernails than Donald Trump, steel themselves for the worst. When it all comes true, they wake up every morning and fight back.

I speak on panels. I take interviews and turn down jobs. I am a reasonable facsimile of someone who is “over it.”

A friend texts: “How can I pray for you?”

“I am struggling with how to lead in this moment. There is a lot to do, but its so much I have no idea how to start. My heart is still broken, but I need to get going,” I say.

“Trust that by being your best self, you inevitably lead. And leading from a broken heart is more authentic.”

His text hits me in the solar plexis.

I go home and spend hours hunched over my computer, organizing protests and people and crying as I watch people cheer refugees released.

I’ve been looking to Hillary Clinton for inspiration since I was nine years old. Every time something happens, I want her to lead. I watch old campaign videos because I’m helping make history again, and listening to her is muscle memory to get hyphy.

But it’s not the campaign videos, beautiful as they are, that speak to me.

People ask me where all the HFA people are.

We’re organizing airport protests.

We’re packing town halls.

We’re asking people to run for something.

We’re helping plan the Women’s March.

I still can’t watch the news or hear his voice. I watch the West Wing and feel raw and gritty. I can’t read a postmortem and I leave conferences early when we talk too much about 2016. And I’m so damn angry all the time. I’m not sure this grief goes away. But, I’m not getting deported (yet). I just lost an election.

The rent is due. So, we’re knocked down but not knocked out.

We’re here, and we’re doing the most good.