Dear Parent of a 2020 Graduate,
I am sorry.
I am so sorry for what is happening in our world that has affected your child’s senior year. It is heartbreaking. There is no nice way to convey how sad I am for you other than to say, “It sucks”. COVID-19 has disrupted our lives and cancelled once-in-a-lifetime memories for you and your senior. And while we hold out hope that some of these things might happen later, we know it just won’t be the same.
Senior year is special time and make no mistake, your senior has been robbed. They earned this playful, memorable and exciting time in their life and it has been stripped from them. While we understand why this is happening and we appreciate the reasoning behind trying to keep us all safe and healthy, it doesn’t take away from your loss and your senior’s loss. Sometimes doing the right thing can also be the hardest thing. So many well written articles and vlogs have addressed all the empathy we have for your seniors and the time they have lost with their friends, celebrating their achievements and experiencing all the joys they had waited their turn to enjoy. The disappointment is real.
Friends, your disappointment is valid too. Behind every student stands someone who has supported and encouraged them, kissed their boo-boo’s, ran to the store at 8pm to grab supplies for a project due the next day, drove car pool, and brought treats to school on their birthday. Behind every student is someone who sacrificed sleep so their child could dream big. Behind every student is a parent who rushed from work to make it to see a school play, baseball game, talent show, spelling bee, science fair or band concert. Behind every student is someone who read to them, colored with them, quizzed them on multiplication facts, and played endless games of Chutes and Ladders to teach them how to count. Behind every student is a someone who found a tutor when needed, signed endless amounts of paperwork and proofread essays at midnight. Behind every student is someone who bought new clothes and school supplies every August to be sure their student was ready. Behind every student is someone who has inspired them, pushed them, motivated them, and encouraged them to become the best version of themselves. Behind every graduate is a parent.
I am sure you looked forward to these upcoming few months because your child would be having fun during what was supposed to be their year, their time to shine. Senior year marks a season that acknowledges you made it to the “fun stuff”, let the celebrations begin.
But instead of enjoying this long-awaited season full of moments and memories, you are now searching for answers for all the things you both have lost. There is grief and there is sadness, and it hurts.
I am sorry.
You did not get to celebrate the last band concert/baseball game/high school musical/ swim meet/ softball game/ track meet. You missed out on Senior Night, their swan song at whatever they had invested their time and energy in for so many years. You missed out on recognition ceremonies, the moments that acknowledge all their hard work and determination. You missed out on packing them a last lunch, reminding them “It’s your last Monday of high school” and cheering when they took their final exam. You missed out on watching them drive away to school for the very last time, the mix of emotion between intense sadness and immense joy. Those moments that parents proudly take pictures to validate all the tears, stress, and exhaustion we watched them endure to get to the finish line.
Graduation day, a day circled on your calendar since… the day they were born. Even though their name is only called for a split second, we have dreamt of that second because it signifies the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Graduation is about both endings and beginnings.
We eagerly await seeing them walk across the stage, proudly wearing their cap and gown and getting the diploma that they worked so hard for. There’s something in the human mind and heart that loves ceremony and tradition, and graduations encompass both. We tear up and we beam. We celebrate us. Our story. Our struggles. Our successes. Our journey. Our graduate.
It is a milestone for them, but it is milestone for parents as well.
Sadly, this years graduation will look different than you dreamed or imagined. And this can feel like a loss.
Some people think grief only shows up when someone dies, but in all honesty, it comes throughout our whole life. It shows in different losses: friendships, jobs, animals, homes, relationships, and lost experiences. Recognizing the grief your senior may be experiencing helps open their eyes to a world in which the sun and rain can exist in the same moment. What has happened hurts and doesn’t feel fair, but trust me, your senior will get through this and they will be okay. Learning about grief is one thing but experiencing it, and coming out on the other side, is something the Class of 2020 will never forget. This life lesson will only make them stronger, wiser, and more resilient as they merge into adulthood.
Precious moments have been robbed but do not let this rob your student of dreams and excitement for their future. Help them recognize what is yet to come and balance the present grief without losing hope. Hope is what gets us through life.
One more thing. None of what is happening takes away from all your graduate has done to get here. We know all the work they did: all the activities they participated in to be a well-balanced student, all the hours they spent for a cause bigger cause like being on a sports team, in a band or choir, all the sacrifices they made to leave an impact on their community or school, all the tears they shed over assignments and tests, all the sleep they missed staying up late to get it all done, and all the time and energy they invested to reach this moment.
It’s a daunting task to be the parent of a senior and this year, it’s harder than ever. Lack of closure can be unsettling and upsetting. In the midst of this great instability, it is our job as parents to provide stability and strength. Please know that we are sending you a massive hug and we see your strength shining through the clouds. Please know we honor all your child’s accomplishments both big and small, and we applaud you for helping them reach this significant moment in their young life. Your help, love and support are woven into the fabric of who they are and where they have gotten to today. Please know we see them, we remember them and we cheer for them.
Hang in there, Mom and Dad. Congratulations on a job well done. Hang a grad sign, do a graduation street parade, post as many pictures of your senior as you want on social media. Decorate their car. Have them wear their cap and gown and please show us their beautiful faces. We want to celebrate them. Lean in and enjoy it, even if looks different that what you had hoped. You both have earned this amazing moment.
Holding the Class of 2020 and their parents in our hearts,