We Must Speak of Our Loss

By: Molly Meisels  |  April 24, 2020

By Molly Meisels

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” – William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Why continue to publish? one might ask. What can the trivial words of students do to mend our broken world? Can words scoop up the sorrow that has spilt on freshly dug graves? Can words replant our uprooted dreams? 

Perhaps not. But our words do not serve to mend the world. They restore us alone. The YU Observer continues to write articles through blinding tears, feverish bed-rest, and the anxiety of uncertainty. Through our routine pieces we remind Yeshiva University of a life we may yet return to. Through our grievous odes to a pre-COVID world or hopeful features on our quarantined and scattered YU community, our writers cope. We offer a hand to those faced with similar insurmountable loss and those who are discovering pockets of joy.  

Our pockets of joy can be found in the unrelenting dedication of YU students and teachers. The world may be dark, but our community persists. Professors, each struggling to support families and themselves, reformat syllabi to suit virtual classrooms and take the time to respond to student concerns. They encourage student success academically and professionally, balancing futures on their shoulders. When students miss class due to illness or family emergencies, many professors offer to answer questions on missed material. Some understand that students are not slacking, but drowning in their new realities. These educators are pockets of joy that deserve endless tribute. 

Our students deserve tribute as well. From those who wake at 6 a.m. or remain awake until 1 a.m. for their Zoom classes to those who graciously assist others with classwork when they are floundering, our students bridge the valleys of difference which divide us. We band together in a gut-wrenching time. For now, there cannot be fracture. Our connectivity is all that sustains us. 

While joyous moments must be highlighted, it would be egregious to cast aside the loss facing our community. We must give our pain a soap box to voice its grievances. Our student body has logged-on to Zoom for the last leg of the Spring 2020 semester, outwardly pretending to engage in biology, history, philosophy, or marketing lectures, inwardly pained at the screen separating them from the world. It’s a reality we did not foresee. However, it’s a reality we must not bury in denial. 

Everyone — teachers and students — in our academic Zoom world has lost something due to COVID. Many mourn the loss of commencement. Our schoolmates who have toiled for years — struggling with academics, upholding first-generation statuses, or working three jobs to pay for their degrees — will see their college careers end in a whisper. Instead of celebratory applause as decorated caps are thrown in the air, a final grade logged in MYYU will mark hundreds of milestones. 

Others mourn the loss of routine — of a brick and mortar world that has turned to sand in their hands. The uncertainty terrifies them. Anxiety wakes them every morning and depression lulls them to sleep every night. Internships, concerts, birthdays, and weddings once marked excitedly on calendars now remind them of the life COVID has stolen from them. 

Some mourn the loss of loved ones. Family members, community leaders, friends, acquaintances, retiring their spirits. These students (and teachers) continue to attend class. They drive themselves to accomplish academic tasks, terrified of failing themselves or others, though their hearts break for those they will never see again. 

These are not the only categories of loss. There are countless. But we must speak of all losses, in pairs, in groups, and school-wide. We must join as a university and mourn together. We must not pretend that all is well when it is not. We must air our sorrows through tears, a reality TV show binge, a mental health day, or through words. And we must remember to be gentle with each other. More importantly, we must remember to be gentle with ourselves.