We Connect Through Loss

Sydney Steinman at her last career cheer competition

Amidst the increasingly threatening Coronavirus pandemic, schools were canceled, leaving 2020 Seniors to mourn their last year of High School.

March 10, 2020

“I wake up to the incessant buzzing of my phone on the nightstand at 8:00 A.M. I’d sleep the day away if I could, but my duties as senior class president don’t allow for that. My face is puffy and my head is still heavy with sleep, but I drag myself out of bed and into the bathroom.

A brisk shower provides me with the adrenaline I needed to get moving for the day, and I take a seat at my vanity to paint on the recognizable face of Sydney Steinman. After throwing on a blouse and jeans, I rush down the stairs, already running late. I pour some coffee into a travel mug along with a splash of almond milk, grab some breakfast biscuits and the lunch I had prepared the night before and by the time I’m on my way it’s already 9:05.

I’m lucky. School is only a two-minute drive away, otherwise I’d be late daily, which is unacceptable for the class president. From down the street I can spot my custom parking spot, bright blue stripes with “SYDNEY” painted on in large, white letters. Each of the seniors have the privilege of painting their parking spot, an event I worked to plan which included various snacks and live music. It was after the first week of school when the reality of this being our last year had just begun to set in. The event was a hit and now the parking lot is filled with various colors and designs showcasing the personality of each individual senior, all 587 of them.

Inside the building I’m met with the swarms of students on their way to class, each navigating their way through the halls lined with gray lockers and filled almost to capacity with moving bodies. From down the hall I can hear my friends yelling for me to come chat, but I’m late, so I wave them off and turn left into my English class.

As always, I use the first block of the day to wake myself up. I usually take the hour and a half to eat my breakfast biscuit and finish my coffee, too tired to pay any real attention to the morning’s lesson. I’ll do what I always do and finish both the class work and the homework during lunch. The bell rings and I’m off to my next class of the day, but not before dipping into the teacher’s lounge to refill on coffee. My advisor says I’m known for this and should be punished, but my relationship with the dean allows me to keep mooching without consequences, so I do.

My second class is just as boring as the first, only even harder to concentrate. It’s my upper level math class and I despise it. I have to actually pay attention during this period, so I do.

During lunch, my friends and I bring our packed meals to the library and discuss our days or the new gossip among the school while we eat lunch and get ahead on work. My lunch is never anything special, usually just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I had made the night before and a handful of various snacks out of the pantry that I usually don’t eat. After finishing our lunches, my friends and I usually buy ice cream anyway.

Then I’m back in class, bored and tired. The day’s over halfway over now and my caffeine has worn off completely. The bell rings once again and I’m off to my final class before the early release, another senior privilege. When it’s not fall and cheer isn’t in season, I don’t have to stay after for practice, so I put my car’s top down and drive home.

At home I relax, preparing to do it all again tomorrow, but little did I know that today was the last normal day. Who would’ve thought I’d grow to miss the monotony of High School.”

March 11, 2020 — 11:00 AM

“My mom woke me up this morning with bad news. Due to the escalating risk of the spread of COVID-19, the governor of Virginia has canceled school indefinitely, likely through summer. The details of this announcement don’t register with me initially, as canceled school is usually a good thing, like snow days, but in a semi-permanent context like this, it’s upsetting. Once I’m a little more awake, I begin to understand the implications of not having school. This is not simply an extended vacation, but a period of complete quarantine. We will be cut off from our friends and no longer be able to partake in any of the festivities of our senior year, the ones that I had worked so hard to plan as class president.

I spend most of my day creating a game plan as to how we can continue to move forward with senior events. I draft post for the Class of 2020 Instagram account, explaining how although we may not be able to attend prom, graduation, or any of the ceremonies designed to honor the seniors, we will find a way to enjoy our senior year.

My best friend, Macy, calls me crying. She’s devastated about losing out on prom and graduation, two of the main social events she had looked forward to during the year. She insists that holding these events online just won’t be the same, and she’s right. There’s just nothing else we can do.”

March 11, 2020 — 9:00 PM

“President Trump just gave an address. My sister, Sam, is coming home. My parents are frantic trying to get her a flight, any flight, out of Spain and back to the United States before the borders close tomorrow at midnight. It’s 3:00 A.M. her time, but she’s awake looking for flights as well. She has class at 9:00 A.M. tomorrow, but Mom and Dad told her getting home was the priority. I can feel the stress building in them as they scour the internet, looking for a way to get her out of there. They’ve opened so many windows on the computer that I can hear the fan whirring from the kitchen, trying not to overheat and shut down from the exertion.”

March 11, 2020 — 11:20 PM

“My sister has a flight back. The press released a clarification to Trump’s statement about the border closure to reassure the public that American citizens would be allowed to return. She’s still awake, it’s 5:20 A.M. her time, and she’s assured us that she won’t be going to class tomorrow. Instead, she’ll be purchasing another suitcase, as we weren’t able to visit her and take her unused clothes home, and packing for her flight on the 13th.”

Sydney Steinman and her boyfriend, Bohdan Sidor, celebrating the National’s World Championship win.

March 13, 2020

“Sam’s home. She’s living in the basement for two weeks so we can be sure that she doesn’t develop symptoms of the virus and doesn’t have the risk of carrying it. I’m not quite sure what she’s doing down there, but I know that in the absence of a bed, she’s pushed two sofas together to create a nest. We’re not allowed to be in the same room with her, so we typically leave her meals at the top of the stairs so she can retrieve them.

When they canceled school, they decided to keep our spring break, so this week, we have nothing to do. I’ve been sleeping late and painting a lot, with a good amount of TV mixed into the equation. It was enjoyable the first few days, now I just feel like a lard.”

 March 26, 2020

 “Spring break is over and by now, we’ve each developed our own routines. Mom wakes us up around 10:00 AM, to give us about an hour to eat breakfast and wake up before starting classes for the day. My sister’s out of quarantine now, so she’s included. Come 11:00, Sam, Charlie and I are lined up along the granite island counter, creating our to-do lists for the day and trying to be productive to appease Mom. Charlie has minimal work, as a high school sophomore, the teachers are still easing him into a steady workload. Sam, a junior in college, has a solid few hours of work daily, but likes to work ahead to secure more time to laze around. Only after we’ve shown her our completed to-do list for the day are we allowed to retreat to our bedrooms, where we either nap or watch TV for the next few hours before we’re called down to dinner.

Dad’s in his office, holding conference call after conference call, trying to get everything settled within his company so they can continue working remotely. His days are longer than ours, doing work during the majority of the day and then emerging from behind his closed office door around 6:00 PM, as if arriving home from the office.

There’s a stark contrast between my life before, monotonous yet filled with friends and socializing, and now, seeing the same four faces each day and never changing my surroundings. I used to complain about not being able to laze around all day, now it’s all I’m allowed to do and I’m sick of it. I’d give anything to finish the year the way we all thought we would.

Now, we don’t leave our house unless it’s to go for one of our allowed walks around the park or to drive our cars. Dad is the only one who actually goes anywhere, our designated grocery shopper. He won’t let anyone else go because he’s terrified of any of us getting sick, so he’d rather go himself. He goes about every 10 days, wearing a double layer of the blue latex gloves  from the box we keep on the kitchen counter and the fabric mask my mother made, and gets us everything we need from the list taped on the back of the pantry door. On the first trip, he also picked up about twenty canned meals, god forbid we encounter a food shortage.”

April 9, 2020

“I committed to the University of Pittsburgh today. It was a difficult decision to make between that and Clemson, because I had only been able to tour Clemson before the lockdown, and I hadn’t yet seen Pitt’s campus. We were supposed to visit last week, but due to the coronavirus I couldn’t, so I had to make my decision without seeing it. Luckily, I had the ability to talk to a girl who currently goes there, so that helped me make my decision, I just hope it was the right one.

There’s also the added stress of the current volatility of the economy. I’ve seen friends lose their college funds, something that’s jeopardizing each of our ability to be able to attend in the fall, if we’re even able to do so safely.”

Sydney Steinman at her last football game celebrating her Senior Night.

May 1, 2020

“Today is decision day and we were supposed to celebrate prom later tonight. Each senior would have been wearing a t-shirt from the college they’ve chosen and gathered in the gym to take photos with their friends. It’s always been a day to celebrate the past and future, but today it’s just a grim reminder that we may not be going to college in the fall after all of our hard work.

Today really caused me to think about the future. Many students revealed that they will be taking a gap year before going to college in an effort to recuperate the tuition their families lost in the market. I can’t help but think about the rest of the world. The whole world has lost important events and even family members to this virus, and although the future appears bleak, we have recovered from tragedies like this before, so I continue to have faith.

The past two months have been hard, not being able to participate in the senior events that I had planned and been looking forward to since I entered high school, but I know that the best is yet to come. When the world returns to normal, I will continue to move forward with my education.”


This testimony is written from the point of view of my younger sister, Sydney Steinman, who is a senior at Riverside High School in Leesburg, Virginia, USA. I chose to highlight her experiences with the loss of various traditions associated with your final year of high school and how she managed to cope with the loss.