I have seen a number of posts on Facebook, letters to seniors in high school and college, empathizing with the loss they’re feeling right now. They’ve lost proms, awards assemblies, senior trips, graduation ceremonies, final sports seasons. It’s right for us to feel for them; their loss is real.
But you know who else’s loss is real? Yours, mama’s and dads. Your loss is real, too, and I say you are allowed to grieve. I’m sure you’re grateful for my two cents and my blessing on this topic, seeing as I am no expert in the field of psychology. However, I felt compelled to write this to tell you that I think it’s okay for you to grieve because of the way I’ve seen many of you express your grief on social media.
Often what comes along with a mom’s post about the loss of an end-of-the-year school function comes a disclaimer: I know this really isn’t a big deal. I’m thankful that we have a roof over our heads and that we are healthy.
I get the disclaimer. You don’t want to look like a jerk boo-hooing over some cheezy graduation ceremony or silly dance when people out there are suffering life-and-death situations, wondering how they are going to put food on their table or pay their bills. Those are some SERIOUS worries. You want to make sure you acknowledge those. But, it’s my suspicion that somewhere deep down you acknowledging those means you’re struggling with a little guilt over feeling grief at all. I mean, isn’t that a pretty common feeling? And isn’t that often what people say to us? Just be happy that….. You should be grateful for…..
But you know what? Your grief is real. Something that was very important to you has been taken away from you, and you know what? IT ISN’T FAIR. I’ve watched three of my children graduate from high school and two graduate from college. I know how much I looked forward to those moments. In fact, when I named each of my children, I was intentional about wanting them to have a “diploma name.” Their names can be shortened to cool nicknames, but they sound really awesome when you say the whole thing: first, middle, last. It’s really neat to hear someone else (other than me in a fit of anger) say those names out loud. I’ve been lucky enough to hear the first three as they walk proudly across stages. I got to go to tux fittings and I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect prom dress (okay, maybe that wasn’t as much fun, but it is a memory I always looked forward to creating). If I’m being honest, I actually took those moments largely for granted. Now I realize how fortunate I am, and that’s why I think your grief is real.
Those of you with senior athletes, I know the sting is even sharper. My sons played baseball from the time they were five years old, through high school and into college. When the seniors on Jay’s baseball team walked up to the plate for their last at-bat of their college careers, the crowd stood and applauded them. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about that special moment. It was special for him, but it was special for me too. In my mind’s eye I saw the little boy who I pitched whiffle balls to in the back yard; the little boy picking a dandelion in the outfield; the little-leaguer, the high school senior having a final catch with his dad, the college player hitting his first home run. This final moment was as important to me as it was to him. I saw him through that journey. I know how I would have felt having my son’s senior season taken from him. I know it would have left a bit of an empty feeling, a feeling of a job left unfinished.
Mama’s and Dads, you’ve seen your babies through their journeys too. Some of them have excelled through school and you were probably looking forward to awards assemblies and public scholarship awards. Others of you have those students who have struggled to get through school, who you’ve pushed and prodded and cried over. They’re finishing what at times seemed like an impossible goal, and you’ve been looking forward to that moment of joy that you can experience with them. Getting a piece of paper in the mail or experiencing a “virtual” graduation in front of a computer was not every what you pictured for your child.
I think you have every right to be angry about it. I think you have every right to feel sad. I don’t think you need to apologize for or feel guilty about these feelings because the truth is that you have lost profound, milestone moments in your children’s lives. Be angry. Be sad. Grieve, and don’t apologize.
To those of you who can’t relate to their loss, I would ask you to have grace. I would ask you to empathize with them. Listen. Cry with them. Please don’t judge them as shallow or ungrateful for their grief. Understand that loss is loss, and the pain of that loss is real.
I’m amazed at the ways in which people all over the world have used their creative energies to create memories in unconventional ways. I think it’s good to approach this time with a positive attitude, continuing to be thankful for health and safety, looking for ways that we can use this abrupt change in our lifestyles to create fond memories for our children and families. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, though, that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” I believe, mama’s, that you should also take your time to grieve.