The Loss of Senior Year
By Guest Author Michelle M. Barrett, Ph.D.
The Loss of Senior YearNo prom. No big game or play performance. No walking in commencement or saying goodbye to friends and teachers. Just an abrupt end to senior year. These are losses. And when you experience loss, it’s natural to feel grief.
Even when you have perspective – when you fully understand that people are losing their lives, their health, and their financial stability - it doesn’t mean you should avoid the real feelings you have about missing key moments of your senior year.
Here are some ways to help.
Acknowledge the loss.Don’t feel guilty or ashamed about feeling sad, disappointed, or even angry about what you’re missing. In fact, acknowledging these feelings is really important. Allow yourself to feel what you feel, and share your grief with those that will listen and understand. Researcher, author, and professor, Brené Brown describes “comparative suffering” - the idea that emotions don’t disappear just because they don’t rank high enough on some scale we create. She shares that “empathy and compassion are not finite, the more we practice it toward ourselves, the more we can create for others.”
Celebrate the event.Rituals and rites of passage are important parts of our lives. They allow us to pause, acknowledge the moment or achievement, and often provide a sense of meaning and belonging. Whether these events are canceled or postponed, spend some time on the scheduled day to celebrate the occasion. Although it will not be the same, it can help. Find creative ways to be with individuals you will miss on those days (e.g. virtual graduations, zoom graduation parties).
Don’t get stuck.Rites of passage, like graduation, mark a transition that often helps us move from one place to the next. When you miss that tangible marker, it can feel like you are stuck between two worlds. Without the ending you anticipated, it’s normal to feel some inertia in terms of moving to the next step. So, be in the world of ending right now, and don’t move past it without acknowledgment. And only when you’re ready, focus your energy on what’s next. New phases of life are exciting, but they can also be stressful. Spend some time thinking about what is behind you and what is in front of you. It helps to make a list of what you are looking forward to, as well as your worries and fears.
And remember to be patient and kind to yourself!