Grieving the Loss of Springtime at W&M

Lately, I’ve been talking with students via Zoom. They’re expressing emotions that I relate with. That’s not normal. Often I relate to the emotions of students because I felt that some time ago and learned the life lessons associated.

We’re all grieving loss — of springtime, of celebrations, of a sense of security and a loss of control.

It seems I’m listening to students, friends and family share similar emotions as though I am a cast member in a show. There are several episodes. Some binge-watched their way through the episodes and others are taking their time. Neither is wrong. Both honest ways to watch.

For all of us, there is a time for frustration, overwhelm and a feeling that all we’ve been working on or for is meaningless. Why keep trying? We put so much into this effort and now, with the end in sight, the celebration has been stripped from our reach. We’re shocked. We search for a way to prove reality wrong. We had our life figured out – at least in the moment. We knew where to go, when to be there, how to behave, who to laugh with and who to count on.

That being gone the best we can do is show up each day in our new reality. The best we can do is turn on Zoom and listen to the conversations coming from the laptop speaker. It’s what makes survival possible for now.

Some days later we start asking ourselves questions about what this all means and making some sense of why it’s happening. “I must be learning something about myself, right?” We’re becoming a little bit more comfortable – with Zoom conversations and finding space in a packed house or finding voices in an empty house. We’re becoming stronger and the feelings of overwhelm come and go.

And then, dammit, just when we thought we were on our way back to the good life – we’re angry. We’re mad at the virus, at the distant other who contracted the virus, at the countries and their leaders who attempted to combat it before us. We’re angry at elected leaders no matter what they do or say because anger is all we can muster for now.

Funny thing – anger is actually an easy emotion to find. We’re used to managing anger. Heck, we get angry every day. There’s almost a comfort in being angry and we can be angry at anything — beyond our family and friends and across the entire globe to a person in a country on the other side of the world.

Anger is actually a decent thing for a short time because it helps us get at the pain of the new circumstance. Our anger is toward something or someone. It’s a connecting point from the abyss of overwhelm — the bridge to the future. It reminds us that we really do care about what we’ve lost. The comfort of the university, convenience, and routine. Our anger shows us the intensity of our comfort in what we’ve lost.

What if I only enjoyed every second on campus? What if I made up with my friend, made good on a broken promise, made a truce with my ex? We ache for life to go back to the way it was and the way we imagine it would be in March and April and into May. And, in the what if’s we find fault in our actions. We’re thinking about what could have been with a lens that shows only the good that may have come from the future.

And, we’re feeling really empty. And this sucks. And it’s OK to be with this emotion because the reality set in, deep in your soul, and that feels really bad. We really wanted to experience all the events that were about to unfold.

We may never feel good about this time in our lives, especially for those of us who are experiencing the loss of a magical season of our lives. But, we figure out how to live in our world that did not include spring 2020 on our campus and instead back home or alone. And, in time we will start to release the frustration and anger that was so present in the days, weeks and months with new friends, great memories, exciting adventures and a renewed investment in the community. We live fully again but we don’t rush it.

Everyone’s timeline is different. So we wait patiently as we move through this season of our life, honoring the emotions that bounce in our minds as we run our own race in the new normal.

Categories: Campus Life, Faculty & Staff Blogs
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