I dread going back to school each year. Not because I don't enjoy school, but because it's another year without my dad.
I am not looking forward to going back to school this year.
For most kids, that’s a normal thing to say. Going back to school after a few months of “freedom” is always rough, and most of us wish we could have summer all year long.
Except, I used to be one of the kids who did look forward to it.
I’ve always enjoyed school. Yes, I do miss summer when school starts, but I also really like going every day, seeing my friends, and taking interesting classes.
In the years since my dad died, though, I’ve found myself dreading school for most of August.
At the beginning of August, when people start to think about school, I’ll start feeling a bit weird, and keep running into reminders that school is starting soon. I’ll try not to think about it, though, and continue my summer life. Around a week later, my mom will begin talking about buying stuff for my classes, and going back will be a little harder to ignore. As the days pass, I’ll start counting the days until I have to go back, feeling worse as each day goes by.
Finally, school comes. The first day will be rough, but then I’ll be completely fine, and it’ll be like I didn’t spend the whole month dreading going back.
I’ve realized that it’s not going back to school that I’m dreading. It’s going back to school without my dad.
If my dad was here, we’d be going back to school shopping right now (not this year because of corona). I would send him my first day of school photo after taking it, and the next time I saw him I’d tell him all about my new school year.
Like many things, the role my dad played in my first days of school was so important, and I didn’t even realize it before his death.
This year, my dread started a few weeks ago, and it’s much worse than before because of the coronavirus. With a lot up in the air about school, I feel like I did after my dad died: everything is changing so fast and I can’t do anything about it.
I haven’t found a perfect solution to this first day of school dread, but I have created a few coping methods for myself.
Whenever I’m dreading the first day, I try to talk to a friend about school or think about the classes I’m going to take. This helps me remember the good parts about going back to school, and makes me look forward to the first day.
I also have been working on talking to my friends about how I feel about the first day. By doing this, I know they will check in on me, and I know that I can talk to them if I don’t feel great on the first day.
If you are having a hard time talking to a friend about this, send them this article.
To all friends reading this: Hi! Thank you for being there for your friend. The first day of school is kind of going to be rough for them, just because they have to start the school year without the person they lost. Please be sure to check in on them in the weeks leading to when school starts, and on the first day. You can ask them things like, “Hey, how are you doing?” and “how can I be there for you?” and say things like, “I’m here for you” and “I’m here to talk if you need to.”
Starting school when you’re grieving can be hard, and it may be especially rough this year with all of the changes going on in the world. In the next few weeks, please remember that it’s okay to rely on your support system and that you don’t have to be okay yet.
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Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Photo by Kyo Azuma.