Why Our Seniors Should be Allowed to Grieve

In my time at home recently, I’ve read so many comments on social media posts regarding our high school and college seniors that I would regard as insensitive and frankly just downright hateful. There seems to be a host of folks who would encourage us as parents to minimize their feelings and tell them they are being selfish if they are hurt or sad. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. I believe these kids have every right to feel a host of emotions, including intense disappointment that may even feel like mourning to them. Here’s a list of reasons why I believe their feelings are not only valid but expected.


1) Not to go too neurological, but our brains are not fully developed until closer to the age of 25, and for some, even closer to the age of 30. Until this time, we continue to build neurological pathways that help us with executive functioning skills such as planning, inhibition, shift, flexible thinking and emotional self-regulation. Adolescents especially are biased towards choices that offer short-term reward rather than long-term benefit, and their emotions heavily influence their decisions. It is very difficult for teenagers and young adults to understand that denying them of things that they have looked forward to for months and even years is going to be helpful to a greater good. Strong emotions linked to disappointment that is happening right now are very normal at this age.


2) We learn reasoning over time, often based on our own life experiences. These young people haven’t experienced enough life to truly understand that there are much worse things that can and may happen in their futures and we shouldn’t minimize their feelings by telling them that. Losing things like prom, graduations, athletic seasons, scholarships, and time with friends may very well be the worst thing that has ever happened to them to this point in their lives and it hurts. They likely have no other perspective to compare it to....and if they have been lucky enough to have avoided worse tragedy so far, we should be grateful for that.


3) It truly is not fair. What has happened to them is no one’s fault, most certainly not their own, and it’s just plain unfair. To try to come up with any other explanation to try to justify it is unreasonable and unnecessary.


4) As a society, we have glamorized these rites of passage and have taught them to look forward to them. Countless movies have been made with scenes of senior proms, graduations, and spring break trips. Songs are written about these special times in our lives. We parade our seniors through our elementary schools in their caps and gowns as an example of what can be looked forward to at the end of one’s school career. Winning championships is the stuff dreams are made of. Being a senior and coming to the end of an era is something we have all looked forward to at some point. To now try to tell them it’s not that big of a deal is a lie…..and they know it.


5) We are in a time in history that is unprecedented. None of us really knows how or when this all ends and it’s frightening. To wake up to new news every day and new recommendations of how to combat it is unsettling, especially for our young people. They are looking to us for guidance and reassurance. They are counting on us to have some answers, yet we have very few. This is a generation who is used to things happening in minutes or hours…..not days or weeks. They hold information in their hands to access with the touch of a button at their whimsy. They feed off of the emotions of one another and look for information that matches up with what they want to believe to be true. We must try to be a voice of reason that is steady and secure for them right now.


It is absolutely true that what has happened and is happening is necessary to keep our country safe and to protect the most vulnerable among us. It is absolutely true that saving lives is more important than the events that are being cancelled and/or postponed. But it can ALSO be true that we can be hurt, disappointed, sad, frightened, anxious or even depressed about missing out on things that are very important to us without being selfish or insensitive.


I hope and pray that we can all have a whole lot more grace with one another than ever before as we do the best we can to get through this. As parents, let’s support our kids the best way we know how to help them know we see them, we hear them, we love them, we’re equally disappointed and it is absolutely okay to feel something about this situation….even if those feelings change from hour to hour. We can reassure them, encourage them and help them without dismissing them or minimizing this. If nothing else, we’re all learning to not take some things for granted. At least I know I am. Stay safe, hold your family close, do what’s asked of us, wash your hands, and love on your seniors. This is hard.


Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

For everything there is a season,     a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.     A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal.     A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh.     A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.     A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching.     A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend.     A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate.     A time for war and a time for peace.

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© 2019 by Stephani Cook.

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