Since the spread of COVID-19, it seems like every email that arrives in a student’s already crowded inbox is another cancelation. Because of the persistence of the coronavirus, commencement ceremonies, study abroad trips and summer classes have been canceled by universities to better ensure the health and safety of students. That is an undeniably smart decision, but it does not mean that students shouldn’t grieve the loss of these important and exciting events.
Spring semester is at times stressful but also incredibly thrilling for graduating students. Years of hard work, late night cramming and hours at the library have finally paid off, and students get to celebrate their accomplishments with friends and family. Unfortunately, the emergence and rapid spread of COVID-19 has turned this usually joyous time into one of frustration and sadness for students across the country.
Students have a right to mourn the loss of these monumental moments. At the beginning of this semester, no one could have imagined that ceremonies students have been looking forward to for years would be postponed or canceled, and this jarring change requires time for grief. It is not easy for students to stay positive when so much has been taken from them.
Graduating students are not the only ones who have felt this disappointment. Many students had plans to study abroad during spring semester or over the summer, and those trips have been canceled as well. Working study abroad programs into a student’s schedule can be difficult, and it is likely that some students will not have the opportunity to pursue these programs again.
It is important to acknowledge what all of these students have to sacrifice because of COVID-19 and to give them time to process these losses. Virtual commencement is not going to be the same as walking across the stage to receive a diploma you have worked hard for. Nothing can replace the experience of traveling and learning somewhere new. Losing these moments is hard to grapple with; a college career different than the one planned for can be an unexpected burden to bear.
During this trying time, it is incredibly difficult to remain positive, and that is fine. Feelings of sadness, depression and grief are valid and understandable. Do not shy away from these feelings, and seek professional help if you need it. The University of Minnesota offers several mental health resources through Boynton Health Center, including a crisis line that can be reached at 612-301-4673. Surround yourself with those you love, and take the time you need to mourn these events.