Grieving the loss of a Senior Year


This archived article is timeless for those grieving pandemic losses. The below content was republished with permission from ParentCue.

To the Parents of the Class of 2020

To all my fellow parents who have a senior in high school, I feel your disappointment.

I feel your frustration.

I feel your sadness.

I feel your shock.

I feel the desperation to find the right words.

I feel the struggle to encourage while feeling so discouraged.

I feel all of it.

And it’s hard.

We made it

Watching the end of my daughter’s senior year in high school turn into something we could have never imagined has been difficult.

Watching her cry and try to process the deep loss of it has been heart-wrenching.

Like many of you with seniors, our family was ready for all of the fun stuff to begin.

The prom dress is waiting to be worn.

The senior picnic is right around the corner.

Grad parties have been planned.

Graduation invitations ordered.

Senior trip reservations were made months ago.

We were ready to celebrate 13 years of first days of school, buying supplies, teacher conferences, signed papers, packing lunches, paid fees, homework, test stress, failing, passing, thriving, surviving, navigating friend groups, making the team, not making the team, finding the right outfit, and college applications.

We were ready for the season that acknowledged WE MADE IT.

Searching for answers

But, instead of enjoying this long awaited season, I’m searching for answers to my daughter’s questions.

  • “What’s going to happen, Mom?
  • Is the rest of my senior year just over?
  • I already have my prom dress.
  • I’ve worked so hard to earn my honors cords. I won’t get to wear them if we don’t have a graduation ceremony.
  • Will they just mail us our diploma?
  • What about senior week and senior breakfast?
  • Can we still go on our trip?
  • What about church? Will we still have Senior Sunday?
  • How will I finish AP Calculus online? This is just so hard, mom.”

I knew I couldn’t say, “It will be okay.” I don’t know if it will be okay. I know it definitely won’t feel okay if she misses all of the senior moments that have been on her calendar since the first day of school.

It’s okay to not be okay

But I do know SHE will be okay. And I want her to know that. So this is what I am choosing to say.

“Anna, all of this is not okay. I hate all of this as much as you do. I want to see you experience all of the senior stuff as much as you want to experience it. I want with everything in me to watch you walk across the stage and receive your diploma, just like I watched your brother and sister.

So, no, THIS is not okay. But hear me when I say this, YOU are going to be okay. Sometimes we don’t get to choose the role we play, but we always get to choose how well we play the role. This is one of those times.”

We are talking about how our lives are stories being written. She is writing hers. And I am writing mine. We are talking about how we want to be able to look back and be proud of the stories we chose to write.

11 things we can choose to do now

As we talk, the many questions we had when all of this began have turned into one single question, what can we choose to do now so we can look back and be proud later? These are some things we are trying:

1. Express your thoughts and feelings

Write a letter, say it to yourself, call a friend – whatever works for you – and give yourself 10 minutes to just vent. Go down the mental list we’re all carrying around and state all of the reasons this sucks.

2. Remember you are not alone

Every senior in our nation, as well as other parts of the world, is going through this same thing. You will forever share this common bond. You just got inducted into an exclusive club, whether you like it or not. Future history classes will talk about the class of 2020.

3. Stay connected

Use technology to talk with your friends face-to-face. Take the first step. Don’t wait on your friends. They are wanting to stay connected, too.

4. Don’t think too far down the road

Focus on today. Don’t worry about what will happen (or not happen) weeks from now.

5. Take advantage of online resources

Countless organizations are putting together Bible studies, video messaging, blogs, worship experiences, testimonies of people helping people, etc. to help us all get through this.

6. Think about things that are true

God is bigger than this. I can trust Him. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

7. Look for ways to help others

It’s hard to be consumed with your own sadness when you are focused on helping others.

8. Brainstorm Plan B

What can you and your friends do to celebrate in your own unique way after this is over?

9. Tell yourself, “This is not okay, but I will be okay”

There are great days ahead, no matter how your senior year ends.

10. Make a to-do list

Make a list each day of things you CAN do, and then do them.

11. Look for the good

If we look for what’s NOT good, we will see it. If we look for what IS good, we will see it. Choose to look for the good.

Choosing to do what is right

We have a lot of choices ahead of us. If we choose to play this role we have been given well—parents and students alike—maybe, just maybe, we will end up receiving a far better gift than the traditional senior year activities could have ever given us.

But like you, I’m in it. And it doesn’t feel good, which is why I am reminding myself daily that I don’t have to feel like doing the right thing to do the right thing.

Often, I have to choose to do what is right and let my emotions catch up later. And my senior is depending on me to choose to do the right thing.

In the midst of this great instability, my responsibility as a parent is to offer stability through the words and actions I choose. My hope is that one day we’ll look back on these days and be proud of who we chose to be.

“You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. (Insert your name) has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from (her or him).” —Luke 10:41-42


The Parent Cue Blog Contributor
Autumn Ward is the lead writer for preschool curriculum at She is the author of The Creation Story, The Christmas Story, and The Easter Story.