Dealing with the realisation that this year’s plans are probably going to be cancelled.

We are wired for connection. Humans need social interaction. Special events we’ve come to take for granted have disappeared without notice. Many people are grieving the loss of special social engagements. You’re missing academic competitions, first formals, or proms. You’re missing kindergarten, high school or college graduations, and other social events.

The loss has you grieving because events you know as a right of passage stopped happening overnight. You don’t know how to take part or if there’s a good alternative.

At first, you denied the loss, clinging to hope the event will still happen. It is your right of passage, after all. Come what may, it’s your right to go to your first dance or walk across the stage to receive your diploma. But, as days turned into weeks, and as weeks may turn into months, sooner or later, the reality will hit that you cannot attend in person.

As the realization hits, you become angry. The hope that’s been building up over time for everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve is shattered. The climactic event you were looking forward to is gone. You may be asking, Why me? What did I do to deserve this? You want someone to blame, but there’s no one. No one is at fault. No one took away the celebration you earned, but it is gone, nonetheless.

You bargain in your head a way to make things work out, but there’s no good solution, just a tolerable possibility. There will be an electronic version of graduation, but there’s no handing of the diploma or celebration dinner to commemorate the event. You’re not going to turn your tassel from one side to the other side of your graduation cap, and your diploma will arrive in the mail.

There’s no special, romantic dance with the love of your life (or even your current crush). You can’t even let loose with your besties as strobe lights blink across the dance floor.

Gone, too, are personal interactions to shop and run to the store to pick up a forgotten item. Needs are refocused and prioritized as unnecessary. You place an online order for things you used to hop in the car and quickly pick up forcing brick and mortar stores to temporarily close or shut down.

Depression sets in as you realize there’s no hope. What will you do? How will you cope? Is it even worth getting out of bed? Electronic events become normal and check the attendance box as having happened without any emotional connection or personal appearances. You’re frustrated and angry, full of mixed emotions, and realize there’s nothing you can do about it. The loss hurts, but it is what it is, and you mourn what was once understood to be a right of passage because it doesn’t exist anymore.

Slowly you come to accept situations as they are and grieve the possibilities of gathering together. Gone are the days of big assemblies mostly reserved for weddings and funerals. Balance is struck in a new normal that happens with the support of others going through the same thing. Your comfort comes from connecting with other people who also miss attending milestones, and, for the first time in days, you smile.

One day you will meet in person, but for now, you accept things as they are. You begin to receive a new life and this new normal.

Look forward to tomorrow and smile.