7 Ways to Cope with the Cancellation of Important Milestones

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Have you been looking forward to a wedding, prom, graduation, or another milestone that’s been canceled due to COVID-19 and social distancing?

If so, I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how disappointing that must be for you.

Rituals are important rights of passage for everyone in our society, so cancellations can be sad or frustrating. Missing out on them may make you to feel like you have unfinished business.

Why are rituals so important?

Rituals mark ends and new beginnings. They symbolize saying goodbye to the old and moving forward to the new. They represent a new significant change and the end of something old. Perfect examples are weddings, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras and proms.

What makes up a ritual anyways?

Whether a ritual is social, religious, or educational they all have certain criteria:

  • A ritual must mark significant progress in life.
  • A ritual must notify the interested segment of society of that progress.
  • All rituals have an unchanging purpose.

Let’s a look at high school graduation for example:

  • High school graduation ceremonies mark significant progress in life in that it honors the end of K-12 schooling and is symbolic of moving into adulthood.
  • High school graduation ceremonies are events where students celebrate receiving their diplomas with friends and family. Oftentimes parents and students send announcements or senior photos to notify people of the occasion.
  • High school graduation ceremonies have an unchanging purpose, which is to pay tribute to students who have met the requirements to graduate.

With the cancellation or postponement of graduation ceremonies, weddings, and other rituals that you were looking forward to, you might realize that you have some unmet hopes, dreams, and expectations on how you thought this year would play out.

And what are unmet hopes, dreams, and expectations?

UNRESOLVED GRIEF – Which is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind.

So let’s look at ways to move through your grief over the cancellation of rituals.

  1. Remember that grief is normal. It is not a personality condition or a mental disorder.
  2. Talk about it. Find someone who will listen and not try to fix you. Ask them to be a heart with ears.
  3. Plan a celebration at a later date. Just because the ritual can’t happen in our time frame doesn’t mean it can’t happen at all. It’s okay to acknowledge your disappointment then plan around it.
  4. Do something special on that day. There are a lot of articles, blogs and social media posts that suggest that you replace the loss by planning something else on the original day of the event that had to be cancelled. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to replace a loss, but you can figure out creative ways to honor the special day, as long as you are honest if you’re still sad or disappointed.
  5. Unite with your community. Have you heard about all the things local neighborhoods are doing to pay tribute to the class of 2020 high school seniors who can’t walk across the stage this year? Maybe you’ve seen neighbors put out lawn signs to local students or have seen social media posts of people sharing their senior year class photos? Do something to honor the day or people if that feels right for you.
  6. Reach out to others that would have been involved. Do you have friends who had to cancel their wedding too? Or know a high school student who won’t be able to go to prom? Ask them how they are doing. Be sure to tell the truth about yourself first (which will make it safe for them to share their honest feelings).
  7. Remember that you’re not broken, so you don’t need to be fixed. Grief is an emotional experience, not an intellectual one. The plain truth is that it is hard to cope with the cancellation of important milestones in your life. There’s no need to act like it isn’t.

Are you grieving and interested in knowing more?

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