A note to all graduates (8th, high school, college, and beyond) and their parents:
I can’t imagine. Working so hard, spending so many years, and then bam, nothing. I got to have an 8th grade promotion, a high school graduation, a college graduation, and opted out of my graduate school ceremony. I had all those events that tag along with it. Senior skip day, prom, dressing in a cap and gown, spring sports and banquets, senior fun night. I also had a choice about whether I participated or stayed home. I am so deeply sorry for those of you who don’t.
I still remember both my high school and college ceremonies. The event itself, the family parties, and even better, the parties with friends after. These memories are stored for life, and I want to tell you again, I am so deeply sorry if you have to miss these major life milestones.
I write this apology to you as an adult who who can recognize on a profound level just what this loss might be like for you.
I know my apology, my sorry might not mean much because there is nothing myself or the other adults in your life can do to save you from the heart ache of missing out. What I want you to hear though is that we see you, we feel you, and we know a lot about grief and loss and what it feels like.
I hate to be the bearer of this news, but grief and loss will come throughout your life. It may stay longer than you’d like. It comes in the stages of denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, and acceptance. You might think grief and loss only shows up when someone dies, but I hope you learn early that this process will come in many forms. Not because I want you to experience it, but because it will in fact come. Loss of friendships, loss of intimate relationships, change of jobs, change of schools, death of animals and people, climate change, change in leadership, and loss of graduation to name a few. There is so much that can evoke the strong winds of grief and loss.
Yours is a generation focused on being happy, and I am so thankful for the joy it brings. But I caution you not to overlook or push away the feelings of grief and loss that may be knocking at your door. Because the catch with grief and loss is, it comes at its own time and stays for however long it decides. It’s a feeling we can’t control. No matter how much you try and bury it, it finds ways to emerge. So welcome your sadness, your anger, and your hurt. Tend to those feelings with the great love you possess. Treat yourself the way you would a friend. Be kind, understanding, and patient with your feelings and yourself.
And when you can, check in and be real with your feelings and share them with your friends. One of you needs to step up and say something. You don’t have to pretend it’s all ok, and you don’t have to go it alone.
Us adults, we may not walk in your shoes, but we’ll do our best to be there for you. We all know about grief and loss and the pain it comes with. We will hold your hand and heart, offer you love and support, sit quietly with you because no words can undue what’s been done, and get through this time.