Their Own Losses, Their Own Words

AUGUST 23, 2020 08:00 AM , UPDATED AUGUST 23, 2020 03:29 PM

During these times of COVID-19 there are many losses students are facing. A graduate level class at Penn State shared some of theirs last month:

  • Some personal losses I am experiencing are loss of personal contact, loss of new friendships with my cohort, loss of connection with professors and peers, and loss of focus. When attending graduate school these have all been special experiences for me and now that we are not attending class in person these relationships have become challenging to continue.
  • Words cannot explain how much this time has broken us all. It has changed so dramatically, making that “land of opportunity” for growth and riches into the land of distress and injustice as COVID continues to spread its cloud of darkness. As a student, a woman of marginalized status, I learn that so many struggle to fight for their lives. Seeing lives cut short due to the hands of brutality or being forced into a grave that marks “Why, why did you have to go so young” when society has a twisted view who to save and who to let go. Unemployment is at an all-time high with the part-time and frontline being pushed to thrive or survive. On top of this, the nation cries when they see a black man dead once again but are outraged when seeing the other brother, in uniform, silencing the man until his very last breath. Sparks continue to fly across the nation. Rioting, protesting, making most all the headlines, while our dear president sits and slowly turns a blind eye.
  • The past few months have brought a lot of change for me. Mostly I miss the ability to go to work and school, physically, and I grieve the opportunity for my kids to go to school and summer camp. I also have had to deal with the fact that we cannot go to so many places that we want to because they are closed. Mostly we miss what we are used to, and now it seems we may have to miss the normality of in person school this fall as well. We are preparing mentally, emotionally, spiritually for home school for all of us, and homework for me. For example, we had already purchased our season passes for Delgrosso’s Amusement Park back in February. Because of COVID, they have kept the park closed.
  • I’ve felt and grieved so many of the losses created by COVID-19 — loss of routine, income, milestone events, lives taken. Overlaying this has been grief (and guilt) for the social injustice that has always been present but is now front and center as a national discussion. As I feel and process all of this, I’m trying to use the extra space created by COVID to learn and better understand the ingrained racism and racist policies that have governed this country since its inception — to learn more so I can do better. I hope to use this time of loss for learning that will result in right action.
  • Through the COVID pandemic, I have experienced several losses. Especially as an international student. I believe the most important was having the ability to return home when I needed to go back, I lost that freedom. Fearing going back to my country, not being able to reenter this country, and not being able to finish my master’s program brings me great anxiety.
  • Even while I am in the country, I am in constant anxiety of not knowing what will happen. Recently, ICE decided that students of F-1 visas should return home if classes are online. This new policy made me experience the loss of security even more. It is scary to think that I might be in more danger by traveling back to my country and not having any power of decision on whether I choose to go or stay. I believe these experiences will make us stronger persons and I hope that we can be kinder to other people who might be struggling more than we are during these times.
  • There are many changes for me in the past few months. I lost my connections with family and friends. I have had to adapt to a new lifestyle — to stay alone most of the time. I can feel the loss of my social life. The pandemic also creates anxiety towards my study and funding due to the budget cut. I am worried about funding and future study plan over the whole summer. I also lose my daily routine and original summer plan. This is my first summer staying in the United States instead of returning home because of the COVID-19. I don’t know when I can go back home without affecting my doctoral program here. The policies are changing every day. The unknown makes me feel very anxious and scared.
  • The COVID-19 had made me lose my part-time job as a bartender, which was the main source of my income. As a poor college student, losing income has a big impact on me, but there are many secondary losses that came with the job loss. I lost the connection with my co-workers and I have lost the connection with my customers, and I have also lost the experience of working behind the bar, which is a way where I can get out of the college setting and feel connected with the society.
  • COVID-19 affected a lot in my academic work. I lost communication with my cohorts and professors in the program in person. The transition of class format from in-person to online brought me the challenge of concentrating on my schoolwork, including classes and assignments. As a counselor-in-training, I also lost the connection with my clients and the opportunity to complete my practicum in time. At the beginning of the transition, I was stressed out with so much anxiety toward my class and training. Although I had adapted to the bunch of secondary losses caused by the pandemic, the change of my life brings me more pressure and anxiety compares to the life without them. I experienced racing thoughts filled with worries about my academic performance and clients at night, which caused sleeping difficulty. Having class via Zoom can never let me concentrate on the class as much as in person. I do not think I can totally accept the significant change that resulted from the pandemic. My cohorts and professors inspired me to do more self-care activities at this time. Those activities worked to reduce my anxiety and stress. However, I still miss life without COVID-19 and hate all the changes it brings to the world.
  • As an international student, I would have to say that my biggest loss due to this pandemic is my ability to return back to my home country in the summer. Several secondary losses come with this one — loss of routine (I used to go back home every summer to fully rest and recharge before starting a new semester); loss of the ability to visit family (especially my grandparents!) and friends back home; loss of the opportunity to eat my favorite food (both made by my grandparents and in my favorite restaurants).
  • During this time, many of us students have grieved losing the normal experiences of students, the connection of being together as a class, and the better learning atmosphere of being in person. Like many, I have also had to continue working due to my need for income, so I have had to grieve a sense of safety in my workplace. However, I know I am lucky to still have income. COVID has not personally touched my life as much as it has for many of my classmates. I know some classmates are experiencing worry and grief over sick loved ones. I have also seen my classmates grieve over their sense of future and security as they wonder whether they will be deported if their universities won’t hold classes in person. Although it looks as though that policy may be rescinded, the loss of a sense of stability was still present. Simultaneously, the disproportionate impact of COVID on people of color and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others have also caused deep pain for many people and many of our fellow students. I also feel grief over these occurrences as I attempt to listen and learn. This has been a time full of grief for everyone, and students are certainly experiencing that as well.
  • Coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown have resulted in numerous losses for me, just as it has for seemingly everyone in the world. I am lucky that my losses have not been the loss of loved ones due to this illness; however, I have lost the ability to spend important quality time with them. Most significantly, my grandparents are the loved ones who I feel I have the least amount of time left to spend with on this earth, yet they are also the loved ones I must avoid the most during this time in order to protect their health. I was also forced to stall the progression of new friendships being made at school within my cohort, friendships that I valued, and was excited to see develop. A loss that I have struggled with the most recently is that of the loss of my essential time spent in my internship at a public elementary school. Because the school had to be closed, I was unable to continue my internship this semester and I am still unsure of what my involvement with the school will look like in the upcoming semester. This internship had been a primary source of my developing confidence in my ability to be an effective and competent school counselor in the future. The loss of my internship has subsequently resulted in the loss of my building confidence in my future career role and has become a new source of anxiety.
  • During the global pandemic, I was stuck in the U.S. while my sister was studying in Italy. Every day, we were watching news and following the case numbers in Turkey, Italy and the U.S. That situation creates a lot of anxiety and pushes us to get together. Also, not being able to see my family and friends was extremely painful and I was afraid that they can get the virus. Losing the opportunity of spending time with my friends and family in such a crisis time was one of the most difficult moments in my life. When I had a chance to go to Turkey with a rescue flight operated by Turkish consultants in New York, I was feeling released because I gained the opportunity of seeing those people again.
  • Throughout these past few months, I have experienced a variety of losses due to COVID-19. Like most students, I have lost the ability to continue forming connections with my cohort and professors. Additionally, as a counselor education student, I have lost the ability to build in-person relationships with my clients. On a personal level, I have had to change my wedding, and we lost the ability to have most of my extended family members attend due to health risks. COVID-19 has created a variety of losses for everyone, and we must use empathy and compassion to understand how this pandemic has affected our lives in many different ways.

Thank you to all the students who shared their personal stories and losses.

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