Before the Covid-19 shut down, I offered this to my son: “How about dinner for 17 tonight or tomorrow?”
As the reality of the coronavirus set in, I realized that his college a cappella group, which is very close, would be facing rushed goodbyes to each other and, in particular, to the seniors. The college had just announced that all students had to leave. Everyone was chaotically rushing to pack up and depart.
I felt the window was about to shut. I thought treating them to a meal was the right thing to do, to give them a gift. Thankfully, it all worked out, and we all went out for a nice dinner.
At the end, each senior got up and spoke. It was so intimate and sincere. And, so very sad. How do you say a sudden goodbye to friends who have become family? How do you end your college career in such a jolting and abrupt manner? What do you do when your much-awaited Senior Spring, with its joyous milestones involving dances, trips, and farewell rituals, meant to be a comforting and gradual glide path into full adulthood, instead becomes a sudden car crash?
I felt out-of-place, as it was such a personal moment for the group. It was their last day together. It was so moving and sad. I am glad, as a parent, that I provided to them a space and a time to be together, have fun, and grieve.
It’s a curious word. I suspect you may be feeling it now during the lockdown. Here’s why.
The Harvard Business Review published this article: “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.” I found it very interesting when I read it. And, as I speak with friends, colleagues, and other parents, it’s a theme that resonated with them, too.
Also, I’m a father to a high school senior, too. Many years ago, one of my son’s teachers said that senior year is a series of griefs (my last home game, my last Homecoming, etc.) that culminates in the graduation ceremony. Each of them is looking ahead to a bright future but, also, is grieving for an adolescence about to cease.
Unfortunately, today with Covid-19, that grief process has suddenly halted. Their grief is thereby unprocessed. It’s real, too. This article does a good job of explaining that.
Acknowledging the grief is powerful, IMO. It gives us a vocabulary to understand what is happening and, if possible, to discuss this with family or friends. It also gives us permission to be human; so many of us are perfectionists!
We need to give ourselves and each other the chance to grieve. Unprocessed grief will eventually come out later in unexpected ways, as I have learned.
I try and fulfill many roles as a parent. Currently, I feel that part of my job is to help my children process unresolved grief. I don’t know of any magic-bullet answers other than trying to be there so that my children feel that they are known and loved.
My most earnest wishes that you and yours are somewhere safe and comfortable….