The Balance of Grief & Joy
It’s the strangest times of our lives. 2020 has not been kind to us as a population; especially high school and college Seniors. While we as adults feel the pressures to meet deadlines at our makeshift home offices, we must not forget the emotional needs of our children. Stress levels are at an all time high for every age group. Our office focuses on children and teenagers, so that is where our priority lies.
Have you heard your child bargain and plead to see a friend during social distancing? Are you noticing some other parents are not fearful at all, while you feel quite the opposite? Navigating your child’s wants with CDC recommendations can be challenging.
The first thing to do is simple: validate your child’s frustration and sadness. They are used to seeing peers and connecting physically with others for 8 hours a day. After college, most of us don’t see our friends more than once a week. But to our children, friends are truly like family and they are used to seeing them all.of.the.time. Validate that they’re upset, that things aren’t fair, and also give them hope that future plans should still be made.
Seniors don’t have as much flexibility to make up time lost with their graduating class or to experience milestones like prom or Senior Clap-Out down the halls. They won’t get that back and we might compare the extreme circumstances and COVID deaths to minimize their grief. But to them it could be the biggest grief they’ve experienced thus far in their lives. The grief is all relative. Let them go through the cycles of Bargaining what could have been, and being Angry that this had to happen 2 months before graduation, and feeling Sad they don’t get to go back in time.
In our office, we have recommended that Seniors continue to journal their experiences through COVID, and that should continue all summer and into the fall of their next chapter. It’s such a unique experience that one day the processing of emotions and documentation will mean something to their grandchildren or apprentices at work.
Let them social distance see friends when it’s appropriate. Help with education on how to do this safely so they can enjoy summer at the park. Help them set up a movie projector in your backyard and set the seats 6 ft apart (with mini bags of popcorn and pop too). Plan for Family Nights this summer to purposely encourage face-to-face interaction, communication, team building. Game nights, character costume dinners (like The Office), or nightly walks in the neighborhood are great ways to connect.
There is joy in what is to come, it just is taking some time to get there. Future-focused and cautiously optimistic is really the best thing for our mental health. Grieve with them that their childhood chapter ended in a terrible way and it’s okay to not feel okay about it. You all had plans for your child and the Fall will still look different and disappointing. But to all the grief process is the only way through it, to avoid it or only focus on the small good things, would be to minimize the loss they’re experiencing.
If your child is still finding trouble over the next month or so, feel free to reach out to a therapist to help them through the grieving process in a clinical setting. Hope and joy do exist even in this chaos and sadness.
“Let them feel all of the Feels. Joy and grief can co-exist in all of us right now. Celebrate what accomplishments they’ve made and cry with them over the loss of previous expectations.”
Jessica Cortez, LMSW
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