On Delayed Grief

I have a Friday tradition with my students involving a Ukulele and Rebecca Black’s YouTube hit “Friday.”  I played and we all sang as I walked the kids to the door on that Friday the 13th. But it felt wrong. I didn’t yet know why.  Was it the already planned early dismissal? There were rumblings and “back up plans” but really, would we just cancel school? What is going on?

Of course, hours later the news came.  Shocked and scrambling. How would I not be with my class and still reach them?  What about the 3 students who had been absent that Friday?  

My grandmother would quote a proverb that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  Like a lot of proverbs, it feels wise. Maybe that’s what I’m experiencing? This feels more like “Grief delayed makes the heart confused.” 

With delayed grief, the pain comes in drips and drabs.  It comes at a press conference encapsulated in two sentences within a 90 minute speech.  The reporter asks a question for clarification, the question I was wondering, and the Governor says “I don’t know.’  And I don’t know either. How to feel, that is. District emails focus on the task at hand. The emails either come too quickly or too slowly; too many or too few.

First, I threw myself into making videos.  I YouTubed, I Flip-Gridded, I emailed away.  “In this way, I will be with you,” I thought.  This is temporary. I realized quickly the gulf between us; we hadn’t practiced learning this way.  We only had 4 computers in our classroom. We weren’t ready. Kids are without devices. Parents are still working.  Families are too big or too small to pull it off. And no one reads their emails. I grieve all that too.

I grieve the time I spent getting students ready for an assessment that never came.  We practiced logging in and test skills and…you know what, I don’t want to talk about it.  I want that time back. And that one Friday, when overwhelmed, that I put on twenty minutes of (on topic!) Bill Nye so I could find and complete the papers needed for a meeting.  I want that time back too.

If it sounds like the stages of grief, that’s because I guess it is.  It’s just that we haven’t yet received the worst news. Is it deferred hope?  Maybe? It feels like delayed grief. And because the worst news hasn’t come, I know I haven’t really grieved.  Suddenly and unexpectedly ending the school year is, honestly, something to cry about. I have invested so much in these kids and they have invested their trust and efforts into who they are becoming.

We will remote learn.  We will google meet. We will digitally connect and confer.  But still I grieve. I grieve for the missing students. We won’t ALL remote learn or google meet, or connect and confer.  We won’t have the silly moments, the lining up moments or the run to recess moments. We won’t have the shared joy of I-figured-it-out moments or in person coaching. We won’t have cupcakes together or Dum-Dum parties and birthday bracelets.  

At some point, the decision will be made and grief will come.   But it will be blunted by the daily, weekly, bi-weekly pronouncements and the pile of emails that continue to come.  It may surprisingly come in full force at the end of a 4 mile run or the end of a moderately sad movie. People will wonder if I’m ok.  I will be.  

5 thoughts on “On Delayed Grief

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  1. The grief of this time period in history is huge, and I know I will keep feeling it. But maybe there will also be moments of joy, too. The pace of your piece is perfect for capturing the emotion– something about the sentence variation, I think. It really worked.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. And YES! There are definitely moments of joy. Though I’m melancholy by nature, I definitely need to dive into joy as well. Thanks for reading and commenting.


  2. So much to say about this post … mostly it gave me the space to hope and grieve and hope again. I agree with Melanie that the sentence structure gave it a pace that was soothing and yet anticipatory. The not knowing is really hard. I think if we all had an endpoint – we knew when and how it would end (and that it would end) this would all be easier. I love the proverb – both ways. Much to think about. So glad you are here and sharing your voice.

    Liked by 1 person

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