There are five stages to grief, as explained by Kubler Ross.
- acceptance (sometimes called accommodation)
We do not progress through the stages in a linear fashion. Some may have to be repeated. If we are not careful, we can get stuck at any of the first four, and never fully achieve the final one, of acceptance.
Today, those of us who voted Remain are feeling some or all of the first four stages. Only a few have reached the fifth by now. Some never will.
We have a right to feel angry. The referendum was unnecessary. Some time ago, David Cameron made a promise to appease certain members of his own party. He probably never expected to have to keep it.
After the result, the only honourable thing he could do was resign. As he did so, he was trying hard to appear to have achieved acceptance. But the catch in his voice gave the game away.
And he may never achieve it. Political careers in high office almost always end in failure. But this is failure of a most awful kind. Perhaps we can be kinder if our current Prime Minister shows statesmanship over the coming weeks and begins to chart the way through unprecedented choppy waters.
The reason many voted Leave was not about immigration or perceived European bureaucracy. It was a protest vote against the greed of big business, the banking crisis which has affected poor and vulnerable people much more than those who caused it, and a political ruling class that seems dangerously out of touch.
Can we listen really carefully to those who feel this way? We need to heed their voices, as well as the cries of anguish from those who voted Remain. And listen to both groups above the triumphal clamour of the minority who believe we have “got our country back”.
It is going to be very hard. Once hatred has been unleashed, it is hard to put it back in its cage. The rise of far right politicians and alliances are real and present dangers.
The size of turnout demonstrates that when people feel their vote will count, they are more likely to use it. So maybe we have to rethink our position on our current electoral system that disenfranchises so many.
And perhaps those towards the centre or on the left politically, if indeed such definitions are even valid in this context, can stop fighting one another and think about what matters? And who our real enemies are?
In the early stages of grief, it is important not to make momentous decisions. Words or acts of anger, hatred and blame will not help us.
So let’s hold on. Let’s be kind, to ourselves and to others. We are beaten. But we are not broken.
Yours, in solidarity with the human race