Graduation time may have arrived, but it seems that creativity and ingenuity will be the name of the game again this year. After all, there will be no family ceremonies, no escorted graduation balls, and no tossing of those well-known graduation caps. It’s really unfortunate.

Last year, many dedicated teachers made a special effort to help students celebrate with balloons, car parades and noisy honking horns and I am certain this will happen again. The graduation cards with money tucked in the corner will continue to arrive but I wonder how much good this will do to dampen such personal disappointment.

With graduation being such an important life adventure, I’m not surprised that thoughts turn to disappointment, sadness and grief. It’s loss after all. Yet conquering the sense of loss is also the key to happiness whether it’s during life in the pandemic world or elsewhere. The following tried and true techniques will work for parent, adult, and/or child.

  1. Recognize the curve ball – Name your feelings. Yes, the feeling is known as a sense of loss. Once you label the feeling, it is important to deal with it or else the feeling can be carried inside you for a lifetime. You may experience anger by lashing out at others, you may withdraw and feel depressed. All of these emotions are signs you are grieving the loss of a popular right of passage. Know that these feelings are normal. What’s not normal is hanging on to the feelings for too long a time until you are trapped.
  2. Control what you can control – Believe it or not, you are in charge of your own emotions and you can control how you feel. When people get into a “funk”, they often find themselves throwing negative comments back at themselves. Catch yourself engaging in what is called “twisted thinking”. Listen for all or nothing thinking; stop when you hear yourself discounting any positives, and especially avoid jumping to conclusions. All of this kind of thinking only reinforces negativity.
  3. Think about stages – Moving through the grieving and loss process goes in stages. This is especially hard when final decisions haven’t been made about graduations. Know that anger and depression are the early stages while at the same time, many students and parents are bargaining as they try to figure out how to make the best of this situation. Know that each stage can go quickly and/or slowly depending on one’s attitude and effort to make the best of things. No matter what, there will be an end to the struggle.
  4. Set yourself free – Getting bogged down in anger and depression is a common trap within the grieving process. Make a special effort to focus on the good things in your life, small as you feel those may be. Practice gratitude for what you do have. Reflect on your day and think of people, situations or things that helped to create a sense of happiness. Ask, “what are some good things that have happened to me today?” By doing this, you will set yourself free when you start to focus on the positive.

Graduation from high school and/or graduation from college is a special event that no one would want to miss. I agree, it’s unfortunate that the traditional accompanying celebratory events are not available this year. However, focusing on the positive, keep in mind that graduation has been accomplished under very, very difficult and constantly changing circumstances. Now isn’t that a “tall tale” story to tell to others in the future. Who would believe it?

Article contributed by Barbara Bowes [Legacy Bowes Group]