Allow yourself to grieve during the third COVID-19 spring


Zulfiqar Ahmed

Freshman engineering major Aaron Dennis wears his mask at a lounging area inside the Holmes Student Center on Tuesday, March 22nd. Masks were made optional at NIU on Feb. 28th., nearly two years after COVID-19 first started.

By Summer Fitzgerald

Two years ago, all of our lives changed forever.

We all came home for another spring break, excited to have a break from school, not knowing that the world we would come back to would be turned upside down.

It’s two years later, and the impacts are still forceful and fresh in our lives. Entering the third spring of the COVID-19 pandemic is a lot to handle. It’s OK to take time to grieve this period of loss and re-adapting.

Personally, college was something I had looked forward to for my entire life. I had picked out NIU and my major early on in my high school career and started the countdown as soon as possible. Little did I know, it would nearly be robbed from me.

I remember initially being excited about the extended spring break. It felt like a snow day back in grade school all over again. But as the days dragged on and the news worsened, I went into a state of shock. I was so emotionally numb and devastated. I lost all ability to plan ahead for anything. I became conditioned to not get my hopes up anymore and to always expect disappointment.

It felt like a giant slap in the face. Just my luck, the one time I am free to do whatever I want and experience something I’ve waited for my whole life, it would be taken away from me. 

We kept telling ourselves that it would be over soon. First, we waited through a spring break, then a summer vacation, then an entire academic year, and practically another academic year, too.

It’s now two years later, and we are finally starting to somewhat get back on track.

Live events are happening nonstop, in-person classes are back and we can finally hang out with each other without facing enormous backlash or guilt trips.

I find that I have gained a lot of strength over the past two years. I never would have thought I could accomplish doing school entirely online for a year, let alone get a college education online. I somehow survived not being able to interact with people for a whole year and being shamed on social media every time I did.

Nowadays, I find myself comparing my modern-day challenges, especially pertaining to mental health or schoolwork, to my experiences in the pandemic. I tell myself that if I can survive through a pandemic, or survive online school, I can get over any other minor hurdle I might have.

Even having to adapt back to in-person or “normal” functions of life has been challenging. I have so many friends that have struggled to find the energy to surround themselves with people and live the lives we once had pre-pandemic. And that is OK.

This spring, make sure to take time to reflect on the past two years. Take time to be thankful for all of these concerts, 8 a.m. lectures and social gatherings that we can now experience. The earth deserves an embrace after missing out on us for two years.