How To Deal With End Of The Year Emotions


Credit: Williston Flickr

In the world of psychology, a lot of attention is paid to the emotions people feel during endings. With Commencement approaching quickly, The Willistonian decided to explore how best to cope with any stressful emotions that might arise as students say goodbye to their friends and the campus they’ve grown to call home.

Leaving Williston is going to be difficult for many people; some students have dedicated four or six years of their lives to building bonds on campus. Director of Psychological Counseling Services, Sara Schieffelin, would like everyone to remember, as we approach Commencement, that things might not be comfortable or easy, but to get through, she suggests we all to not focus too much on leaving.

People will be feeling “every emotion you can think of,” Schieffelin said. Some seniors have told her they are excited to leave, while others have said it’s “bittersweet” or “sad.” Some have articulated how terrified they are for the next step. She has seen a lot of anger from students whose friendship are changing. As seniors wrestle with emotions, she would like them to remember that this is only “one phase of their lives, and that it’s an important phase, but there’s more beyond it.”

The overwhelming emotions aren’t just impacting seniors though. Underclassmen, and even teachers, have told Schieffelin they have mixed feelings about the year coming to a close.

“They are connected to a lot of people who are going to be moving on,” she explained, “and I think they are excited for people to take the step and know that it is the natural order and things to move on, [even though] we make these important relationships here.”

Schieffelin explained that the ending of a school year is a uniquely hard transition because of assessments, AP exams, and sports. “There is a lot going on right now.”

Schieffelin said she spoke with an administrator recently who compared the end of the year to a game of “Whac-A-Mole.”

“It’s like things just keep coming up, stuff you’re not expecting, you want to take time, yet it feels like there isn’t time,” she said.

Everyone on campus is going to process endings differently. Some people will want to “push through” while others really want more time for reflection and celebration. Schieffelin hopes everyone will acknowledge that “we all react to endings differently, that things do come up, and that people are going to have a wide range of emotions.”

Schieffelin believes that as a community we should try to realize that this is a time “when people are going to be feeling all the feelings,” and not to shy away from those emotions.

She compared the ending of the school year to the weather in New England: one day is 70 degrees and sunny, and the next it’s pouring rain and freezing cold. Right now, emotions are “so changeable and so different” day to day, and likely graduation will bring warm, sunny feelings as well as thunderclouds of sadness.

Before we go our separate ways after Commencement, Schieffelin suggests we all try to remember that everyone deals with transitions differently. “Honor that your friends are going to do that differently than you,” she said.