The Five Stages of Grief for Politicians

A Psycho-Political Model

Almost 50 years ago, the famous psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first discussed, in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, the theory of the five stages of grief. The model was first introduced in connection to terminally ill patients, but later on was applied to grieving in divorce, lost love, and substance abuse. The stages, not necessarily linear and not always occurring in the same particular order, include denial (and isolation), anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

A tongue-in-cheek version of the theory appears in the 1998 “Good Grief” episode of Frasier.

There is also a faster version (Lowell’s), in the 1993 “Goodbye, Old Friend” episode of Wings (see segment 2:45 to 6:10).

After Al Gore famous “victory” in 2000, I realized how well this theory applies to politics.

The 2016 post-election period has marked some similar phenomena, and particularly for:

– Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party presidential candidate, who saw her political career in clinical death;

– the left (individuals and groups alike, including the Mainstream Media/MSM), who saw their wonderful utopian ideals going down in flames; and, finally, for

– Barack Obama, the 44th U.S. (radical-left Democrat) president, who is seeing already his political legacy (built mostly on executive orders) collapsing after Trump replaced him.

But let us recap.


During this first reaction, the individual believes the result is somehow mistaken, and he clings to a false preferable reality.

The first signs of Trump’s victory had come early in the evening of Tuesday, November 8 and continued in the first morning hours of Wednesday, November 9. By then, putative swing states like Florida, North Carolina, Ohio; putative Democratic states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin; and putative NeverTrumper states like Utah had voted already 50%-plus for Trump, securing him the 270 needed electoral votes.

On Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton had realized that she lost, but her mental state made it impossible for her to address her supporters on election night, as requested by custom. Instead, she sent John Podesta, her campaign chairman, at Manhattan’s Javits Center to address her supporters, who, at that time, were already freaked out.

During his short and unconvincing speech, Podesta adamantly refused to recognize reality early Wednesday morning, declaring: “They’re still counting votes, and every vote should count. Several states are too close to call, so we’re not going to have anything more to say tonight.” “She is not done yet,” Podesta also claimed.

Until that moment, Clinton was still “the first woman president,” with her fireworks ready to start and her victory speech shout-outs prepared for the mothers the Black Lives Matter “martyrs.”

When Clinton’s adoring fans, for their part, realized their candidate lost, they started to shape a narrative about the Electoral College “discriminatory” system. They also claimed that electors should “vote their conscience,” in total disregard of the people they represent.

As for Obama, he started his presidency in 2008 with a full Democrat control of the U.S. Congress. The repudiation of his policies came soon after, when he first lost the Congress (the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014) and then the presidency (in 2016), when Clinton, his ideological legacy successor, was defeated. Since then, Obama has been floating in a continuous state of denial, blaming everybody (Clinton, both political parties) but himself.


In the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue, and he becomes frustrated – either at proximate individuals (family members or acquaintances) or at society as a whole.

When Hillary realized she had lost, she went into a rage. According to some Secret Service officers, „she began yelling, screaming obscenities, and pounding furniture. She picked up objects and threw them at attendants and staff. She was in an uncontrollable rage.“

For Hillary’s fans, the effects on the Trump victory have had a devastating impact, on both individual and group levels. The first affected were the family members. In Texas, a mother kicked her minor son out of the house because he voted for Trump in an elementary school mock election. Episodes containing such extreme emotional abuses will be definitely marking individuals for life.

Soon after the final results were announced, rioters in several American cities took to the streets and threatened secession. Police reports had subsequently shown that most of these riots were organized, and many demonstrators were out-of-towners.

In other places, colleges and universities had proven really pathetic, by:

– hosting “cry-in” consolation sessions for faculty and students,

– cancelling and postponing classes and exams to get over the “trauma,” and

– organizing “peaceful” protest marches downtown, which ended up in violent confrontations with police.

As reality has demonstrated, “Stronger Together” remains a utopian slogan of the left, unsustainable on both individual and collective levels. For his part, an angry Obama started to yell at Hillary voters at one of the rallies.


The third stage of grief involves a need to regain control, which is a normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability. Often, individuals make a (secret) pact with God (or a higher power) in an attempt to postpone the inevitable.

In her concession speech, Hillary mentioned: “Last night I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country.” The MSM, not being able to surmount the post-election shock to date, kept on preaching about “unity,” while the Democrats suddenly remembered the benefits of “bipartisanship.” Obama, on his turn, extended “a helping hand” to the “novice” president-elect and “showed” him how White House business should be done. As for his deputies in the White House, the former president insisted on reassuring them that Trump’s election was not “the Apocalypse.”


During the fourth stage, the individual may become more silent, refuse visitors and spend more time mournful. The phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance, when individuals need cooperation, a few kind words, and hugs.

A week after her concession speech, Hillary Clinton disclosed that “there have been times this past week where all I wanted to do was curl up with a good book and our dogs and never leave the house again.” This stage, in particular, has had an obvious impact on her, as these images suggest.

On the group level, the feeling of reassurance translated into some people’s calls for Michelle Obama or Kanye West to run for president in 2020. Although first ladies became presidents elsewhere (Argentina has two famous cases: Isabela Perón and Cristina Kirchner), Americans have decided to give the “FLOTUS for POTUS” option a pass.

For Hollywood, some forms of depression equated with mutual encouragements. For Broadway, it has been translated in grandstanding monologue-lectures about “tolerance” (improperly called “conversations” of clarification and cooperation). The episode of Hamilton cast harassment of Vice President-elect Mike Pence offers a good example.

As for Obama, the mere fact that his “era” could crash so abruptly (in terms of immigration, expansion of health care, environmental regulation, and Supreme Court composition) forced him to put more urgency in his lame-duck presidency. Consequently, he doubled his efforts to strengthen his agenda. These efforts consisted of:

– his last foreign tour, including a visit to Lima, Peru, to assure his Trans-Atlantic partners that the TPP treaty would pass on his watch;

– his decision to declare parts of Arctic off limits for oil drilling;

– his resorting to pardons and commutation of sentences until January 19, 2017 (considering that his criminal justice reform was less likely to happen).


In this last stage, the individual embraces the situation as it is. Typically, the phase is marked by withdrawal and calm (not to be confused with depression) and comes with a peaceful, retrospective view and a stable condition of emotions. Social interaction may be limited.

Reaching this stage of mourning is a “gift” not afforded to everyone. Many individuals may never see beyond their denial or anger.

In terms of elections, coming to terms with reality is not an easy task, especially when the MSM has been creating a parallel “politically correct” reality for some time now, and important segments of population (especially the young and some middle-aged individuals) have been living so comfortably in it ever since. The ultimate test of free and fair election is the acceptance of the election results by voters.

In the end, our psycho-political model could look a bit like this:

After all, isn’t the hypocrisy of the left and MSM so blatant, when just several weeks before they went ballistic after Donald Trump said he would accept the election results only if he wins?


NOTE – A version of the article was published previously in AMERICAN THINKER.


Tiberiu Dianu has published several books and a host of articles in law, politics, and post-communist societies. He currently lives and works in Washington, DC, and can be followed on MEDIUM.




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