It’s OK to Grieve the Ending of Your Senior Year

Coronavirus has thrown so many of our plans into disarray, and it happened quickly. One day you were heading to school like normal, rehearsing for the spring play, making plans for the prom, training for your upcoming softball season. The next day classes were online, and all spring extracurricular events were canceled. Poof. It was like a horrible, unfair magic trick.

I was speaking to a close friend of mine recently who just canceled her June wedding. She said, “I’m so upset. It’s petty, because there are so many bigger things happening right now, but I’m sad for myself.” I’ve heard that sentiment echoed by many people recently – and pretty much everyone can rattle off a list of ways this pandemic has negatively impacted them. And yes, right now, so many people have it worse. And yes, in the grand scheme of this global crisis, our canceled parties, games, events, ceremonies… well, they’re small. But that said, it’s so important to remember that your emotions are valid, and it is OK to grieve. You’ve been ripped off, and don’t throw guilt on top of everything else you’re feeling because you feel like your problems aren’t big enough to matter.

I was scrolling through Instagram a few weeks back (as I’m sure most of us are doing more than ever right now…) and I found this beautifully written post by the president of the University of Virginia, Jim Ryan. While the entire thing is worth a read, one part really struck me. He explained that when his father died, many well-meaning friends and relatives tried to “focus on the positives.” He writes, “But I recall feeling most comforted by those who were themselves comfortable simply sharing my grief. I remember especially the ones who just put their hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eye, and said: ‘I’m really sorry.’”

Many people probably already have and will continue to point out the positives in your situation. You can do e-learning in your pajamas! At least you have college to look forward to! I’m sure you’ll get to celebrate with your friends this summer! And they’re right! There is a lot of good, happy, wonderful things in your future, and this situation won’t last forever. But, in the simplest of terms, it sucks right now. And we’ll echo the exact same sentiment that Ryan told his students at UVA: we’re really sorry.

And with that said, there is really no generation better equipped to handle this curveball. Chris Diers is a high school teacher in Louisiana who also had his envisioned senior year cut short – in his case, by Hurricane Katrina. He wrote an open letter to the Class of 2020, and it offers encouragement and insight from an educator who can truly empathize. He writes:

I am sad for you; truly, I am. I feel deeply for you; truly, I do. It makes my heart hurt as I write. But if there is any group that can plow through this in creative ways, it is your group. There is no pandemic strong enough to silence you or dent the passion of your generation. Keep your head up and keep fighting. Our country needs you because you provide hope for our future. This year may not be what you envisioned, but I’m eager to see what you do with it.

After all, it is still very much your year.

Grieve the loss of the senior year that you wanted, but try to embrace the strange, unpredictable senior year you’ve been given. Know that you feelings are legitimate and justified, but also know that you will absolutely survive and thrive.