by Dana Reid, D.O.
Senior year is usually an exciting time for most seniors and their families. Teens look forward to this special time and anticipate it for so long. Many memories and milestones such as prom, state championship games, final performances, senior trips and graduation ceremonies are created. Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, senior year for students all over the country came to an abrupt halt in the middle of March. Students were informed that schools would be closed for the rest of the year and that schoolwork would be resumed from home. The last few months with friends and the planned celebrations have been stolen away. Graduations were becoming virtual and traditional ceremonies were cancelled or postponed to a later date.
This pandemic has caused tremendous tragedy and loss. It has affected all of us in one way or another. We are all grieving. We may be grieving the loss of a loved one, the loss of a sense of security and normalcy, the loss of financial stability or the loss of our jobs or businesses. Although in the grand scheme it may seem that this loss for seniors and families is small, it is important to recognize that this is huge for them. They are grieving missing these milestones. Their feelings are real and should be validated. Seniors have worked so hard for these accomplishments. In addition, there is the uncertainty of what next year will look like. Will they still be able to start college in the fall? Many students have stressed over their college applications for so long and were thrilled when they got their acceptances and found roommates. Now what? For seniors who are looking for jobs and starting their careers, they may worry about the job opportunities in this economic climate.
Despite these circumstances that are out of our control, it is important that seniors celebrate their accomplishments and enjoy these moments as best as they can. Here are a few ways as a senior you can do this.
-Recognize Your Feelings. It is ok and normal to feel sad and disappointed about this year. Don't feel that since your loss may be different or smaller in comparison to others that you should not talk about it. Feel the emotions and don't numb them. Talk with your friends who are likely having similar feelings.
-Find creative ways to celebrate. Many schools and communities have organized celebrations like drive by graduation parades. You can have smaller celebrations with a few friends in your backyard or open area as long as you can safely do so and maintain physical distancing. Hold a virtual zoom graduation party for family who lives far away and cannot travel. You can make it fun by having everyone dress up for a themed event and have your favorite food catered. Everyone can share special memories of the graduate. Personalize your caps and take pictures in your cap and gown.
-Celebrate with friends. You may have had senior trips or other fun things planned with friends. Maybe at the end of the summer when safe, you can do a weekend trip with friends or do a day hike or lake trip. Keep in touch with your friends and you could take that planned trip next summer.
-Keep hope. If you are feeling discouraged about the start of college in the fall or defeated about finding a job, know that it will all work out in the end and be ok. The uncertainty can be unsettling since everything is unpredictable now and out of our control. Take things one day at a time and try to stay optimistic. Lean on your friends and family. It helps knowing that everyone is in this together.
-Acknowledge your accomplishments. Be proud of all that you achieved. Even if your graduation and year was not what you imagined, you graduated!! You did it! Soak that in. Celebrate as you start this new journey. Follow the dreams you set and know the future ahead is bright even with the bumps along the way. Bumps along the journey are part of the process. These bumps make us more resilient. Focus on some of the silver linings that may have come out of this unexpected time. Were you able to enjoy more family time and create some new memories?
Congratulations and may your next milestone and celebration be extra sweet.