By Elizabeth Fedrick, PhD, LPC

 “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear” -– C.S. Lewis

On March 30th, 2020, life as we knew it came to a complete halt. The lead up to this date had been bizarre and uncertain, but the hope remained that Spring Break would just be slightly extended, and then we would all return to our normal lives. We would be back in class, of course complaining about not wanting to be back in class, but we would be back, and it would feel safe and normal once more.

Tragically, this is not what happened and not how the events unfolded. Instead, we were informed in various ways, for some of us it was by our parents, some of us had friends who told us, and others of us saw it all over social media: Arizona school closures extended through the remainder of the school year. “What?! No way! How could this be real? I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye, I am never going to be able to finish my school year, I will never get the prom and graduation that I have waited my entire life for. It is just gone. All of it. Just like that.”Presented with no warning, life as we knew it had been completely stripped away, and in exchange we were left with broken hearts, isolation, and fear.

Grief is a completely natural and valid response to what you are experiencing during this time. The events that have taken place over the previous few weeks are nothing short of traumatic and unfair. The loss of your school year, your friends, sports and hobbies, as well as some of the most anticipated events of your life (prom, graduation, sports, etc.) is incredibly shocking, overwhelming, scary, and all the other feelings you are experiencing.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross suggested that there are five stages of grief. You are likely experiencing one of these stages currently and will continue to move through the remainder of the stages as time passes. The stages don’t always take place in this exact order, however we often all experience each stage at some point when grieving a loss. The stages consist of:

Denial: “There is no way they will close school for the remainder of the school year. That is just crazy!”

Anger: “This is so stupid! How could they do this to us?! Don’t they know how important school and these events are?!”

Bargaining: “Okay, I get the school is staying closed, but they can still find a way to let us have prom or our final sporting events, or at the very least, a graduation ceremony.”

Depression: “Ugh, this sucks. My life is ruined. I will never get to experience these special memories I have been waiting my entire life for. I am so sad and so hurt. I just want to be left alone.”

Acceptance: “This is really painful and unfair. But, when the quarantine ends, I am going to find ways to still celebrate with my friends, even if that means we create our own prom and graduation ceremony together. Either way, I will still find a way to make special memories with my friends!”

Be on the look out for our upcoming article on effective ways to cope with the grief you are experiencing. In the meantime, please know and understand that feeling sad and angry is a completely normal response to this experience. You are allowed to feel any way that you are feeling, you are allowed to move through the stages in any way that is natural for you, and most importantly, you are not alone in these feelings.