If your high school or university graduation ceremony has been cancelled, you might be feeling sad, angry, disappointed, and frustrated. For many young students, you have been working towards this meaningful event that represents all your hard work and growth over many years. You might have really been looking forward to the send-off as a way of closing one chapter of your life and moving on to a new and exciting one. Whether your ceremony has been cancelled, gone virtual, or been postponed, it’s normal to be feeling a great sense of grief over this, the loss of sporting and social events, family vacations or friend trips, or summer plans and beyond. What we thought we had all planned out has seemingly unravelled, and that can be hard to accept.
Here are some things to remember when you’re feeling down:
Let yourself grieve
Resist the urge to compare your challenges to those of others – your feelings are valid no matter what you perceive other people to be going through as well. While we can all benefit from practicing gratitude during this time, don’t feel like you’re not “allowed” to be sad simply because others may have it worse. Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Let yourself mourn that grad trip you’ve planned for months, not being able to wear your prom dress in the way you imagined, or not attending that sports competition with your buddies. Let your body and mind process your feelings in the moment – don’t judge yourself for feeling the way you do. Your experience is 100% valid.
Find strength in adversity
Though it might not feel like it at the time, challenges make us stronger. You have survived all of your worst days so far, and right now isn’t any different. Instead of always looking at your situation as “why is this happening to me?”, instead ask yourself “what can I learn from these circumstances?” Remember that without challenge there is no change – and most of us have goals and dreams for ourselves that will require us to grow in some way before achieving them. Remember that we will all come out of this stronger and with different perspectives. Looking at life’s challenges from a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, means that we can always build and adapt from demanding circumstances in the ways we choose.
Remember that you have the ability to create the future you want
Regardless of our circumstances, we can make choices about what we want to do in our lives. Though we might have setbacks, we get to wake up every day and choose our priorities. Remember that this crisis takes some of our control away, but not all of it. Focus on what you can control in your life in order to feel happier, more content, and more productive.
Education equals agency
Remember that now is not the time to give up on your goals or dreams. “Going” to university might look a little different for a while, but education is just as important (if not more) now than ever. Choose to look at this time in your life as one of opportunity; get creative as much as you can. Try as much as possible to continue on with as much of your life pre-pandemic normally. This means continuing to prepare for university (in whatever ways that looks like for you), talking to your friends, spending quality time with your family, daydreaming about the future, or finding out what you’re interested in and might want to focus on down the road (either in your career, as your college major, as a hobby etc.).
Just because you’re not physically “walking” at graduation when you thought you would be, you should still celebrate your momentous accomplishments in other ways. This pandemic does not undermine your achievements and hard work. Find a way to celebrate that feels special and rewarding for you. This could even look like a video chat graduation party with your friends and family, or if you’re sad to be missing prom, a backyard dance party in your dress. Get creative and think about how you want to spend your special day when your previous plans are no longer possible. You have worked so hard and deserve to celebrate all that you have achieved and done for yourself.
Finally, remember that this too shall pass. Most of us are missing our normal routines, friends, and activities. We will all be able to get back to the things that we want to do in due time. Right now we are staying home and cancelling events as part of our moral duty to protect our most vulnerable. Thank you for doing your part. We feel for you and your disappointment that you won’t be able to celebrate graduation like you thought you would, at least for now. Remember that this is only temporary – and find other ways to celebrate how far you have come. We will all get through this together.