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Opinions of Thursday, 17 December 2020

Columnist: Akua Afriyie Addae

Grieving the elections

Following Ghana's elections for more than two decades, (and that of other jurisdictions), and the reactions of losers and winners, (especially some close friends of mine), I can't help, but write.

Grief is a natural response to loss. People grieve when loved ones and pets die, relationships end, properties are lost, businesses collapse and of course when elections are lost.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, one of the prominent writers on grief and bereavement, proposed that, we go through 5 stages in the grieving process:

1. Denial
2 Anger
3. Bargaining
4. Depression
5. Acceptance

It is noteworthy that individuals can vacilitate between the stages
Regarding elections, it is natural to observe the losing persons/parties react to the initial shock of loss with outrightly rejecting the outcome. To those persons/parties, it is not true that they lost. They can't accept the result.

This is especially so when the results are close. It is very difficult to come to terms with reality. That is denial.

Then, there is massive anger. The anger is mostly attributed to external factors, but can also be directed inwards. So, in the US, it is not surprising that, the president blames their electoral system. In Ghana, people have poured their anger on the EC, some have resorted to demonstrating and burning tires.

In some cases, people turn on others, and sometimes they blame and attack their own party members for the loss. (It is important to note that their anger may be justified, especially, in situations where the elections are fraught with serious infractions). That is stage 2

In the third stage, the losing side starts looking inwards. For example, they can say, "if we had done A, B, C, D, we will not have lost". "Maybe, if they recount we will win". "If we go to court, we could win" (especially if they feel cheated). In the US, their president has filed multiple suits, with the hope of getting the results overturned. In times past in Ghana, a losing party after expressing so much anger also took a legal action. That is BARGAINING.

Subsequently, individuals may become depressed- Perhaps not a full blown clinical depression. However, they may be sad, withdrawn, anxious, feel guilty, or become physically ill, as they realize that nothing they do will change the outcome.-DEPRESSION

Gradually, they begin to accept the inevitable, and move on with their lives, resolving to do things better or work harder to wrestle power in the next election. ACCEPTANCE.

If people are unable to grieve properly, they experience what we call complicated grief. However, that is for another time. In this case, they are unable to get over the loss and their lives get stuck.

It is noteworthy that, Kubler-Ross has been criticized. However, her theory gives us an idea as to what happens when we lose something/someone we consider important,

I have some friends who are currently vacilitating between stages 1 and 3.

We pray things don't get out of hand as people express their anger and frustration. We entreat our security services to carefully and humanely manage the anger and frustration of demonstrators. We also entreat demonstrators to express their anger in a non-destructive manner. More importantly, we entreat those who believe they have won, not to provoke the other side who they believe have lost (in their celebrations).

No more lives need to be lost.

For most of us, the only place we know and will ever know and run to is GHANA.