Tips to Help You Accept Missing Graduation

Tips to Help You Accept Missing Graduation Pin
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Missing your graduation sucks. I won’t sugarcoat it or pretend that it doesn’t. I am sorry that you are in that situation. It isn’t fair.

Take it from someone who was the Valedictorian of my high school and had to miss graduation AND will also miss my college graduation. Therefore, I feel that I can say with authority and understanding: wallowing in the “suckiness” will not help you.

Don’t let the circumstances of graduation deprive you of acknowledging what a huge accomplishment this is! Don’t let this milestone slip past because you couldn’t see past the suck to see the awesomeness!

Celebrating your graduation and focusing on your accomplishment of getting your degree can help you accept missing graduation. Partake in any virtual events from your college, celebrate with family and friends, and watch an uplifting commencement address. Look forward to the next stage of your life.

Here I will share my tips to help you accept missing graduation and celebrate this achievement!

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Deciding to miss your graduation

Alright, first things first, some of you may still be trying to decide if you should miss your graduation.

I am not talking to the people that are able to attend their graduation but just don’t know if they should. If that is you, then this may not be the post for you (my quick advice: go if it is important to your family or you think you could regret not attending).

I am talking to people that want to attend but don’t know if they can because of health issues.

If you want to attend but are afraid of logistical issues (such as a wheelchair), then talk to your school. You have every right to attend, and they should make reasonable accommodations so that you can.

If the issue is that you are concerned about the effect the ceremony will have on your health, then you will have a difficult choice to make. I wish I had some great advice for you, but the truth is you know your health. You know your situation. Listen to your body; listen to yourself.

You are the only one that knows what you can handle (and I don’t mean “can,” as in life on the line, can you physically do it, but “can” as in what you feel you are capable of doing right now).

If you know that going to graduation will mean days preparing and days recovering, but it will be worth it to have the experience, then go!

But if you decide that missing your graduation ceremony is the better option for you, then that is fine too! If the costs of going greatly outweigh the benefits for you, then it is okay not to go. I know that it may not feel like this is a valid decision, but it is!

My decision

I decided to miss my high school graduation for two main reasons.

First, I knew that I would not be able to enjoy it because it would make me sick. I have terrible migraines, and heat, smells, and noise are all triggers. The high school gym was going to be hot, filled with people wearing scented perfumes/cologne/lotions, and extremely noisy. A migraine was pretty inevitable.

Having to sit there for the duration of the ceremony with said migraine sounded like torture.

Second, I could get light-headed and pass out (particularly in the heat). I was terrified of passing out in front of everyone when I got up to get my diploma (there was no question that trying to give a Valedictorian speech was not possible).

These were some big concerns. Before I realized that not going was a valid option, I was filled with anxiety and dread over the graduation ceremony. When I decided to miss my graduation, I was actually relieved.

I wish I could have gone, and I’m still sad that I feel like this was something I missed out on because of my chronic illness, but I know it was the right choice for me. Attending would have caused me so much anxiety and pain that I know I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy (or maybe even process) it anyway.

Bottom line: Make the decision that is best for you and your health! Listen to your body and listen to yourself!

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Feel your feelings about missing graduation

I think there is a misconception that accepting something means ignoring your feelings about it. It does not!

You need to feel your feelings.

Of course, you feel sad and disappointed that you have to miss this milestone. Even if attending graduation isn’t something you thought you cared a lot about, there is something about not being able to attend (not having the option) that suddenly makes you care. It is upsetting.

One of the biggest things that I felt (and others I have talked to felt) is guilt. I felt incredibly guilty that my parents wouldn’t get to see me walk across the stage. I felt like I robbed them of a milestone experience too. After all, graduation is not just for students. It is also for their parents and family.

It can be hard knowing they are disappointed that you cannot attend. Even if they are understanding and agree that it isn’t feasible to attend, you may still feel guilty. If they aren’t supportive, then you may feel guilty and mad.

Either way, I think you need to remember that you cannot control your health. You have done nothing wrong and are not at fault. They can be sad without it meaning that it is you that made them sad. It is the situation, which is not your fault (this is worth repeating).

Reach out for support

This is a time to lean on your community, such as family, friends, your school, or people with the same illness or who are going through the same thing.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to me. I may not know you, but I feel your pain. I’m sorry that you’re going through this. Leave a comment or send me a message. I’d be happy to listen to (or read) you vent or offer advice/encouragement as someone who can relate.

If you need help processing your feelings or accepting that you have to miss graduation (yes, reading this blog post may not be enough), then consider talking to a therapist. It can be helpful to talk to a professional. Never feel embarrassed about this. It is important to take care of your mental health!

Avoid rubbing salt in the wound

This is a piece of advice that many people may not follow: stay off social media. Hear me out before you write this piece of advice off as nuts. Just because you have accepted missing graduation doesn’t mean it will feel good to see a flood of pictures, tweets, videos, or posts about graduation.

I decided to stay off social media after I realized that every time I got on, I felt sad (and jealous, which in my opinion, is one of the worst feelings ever!).

Gauge your feelings. If seeing what everyone shares around graduation time makes you feel good or included/connected, then great, keep on scrolling!

But if seeing it upsets you, then take a break. There is no point in making yourself sad when it can easily be avoided.

Look to the past and the future

Have you attended a previous graduation ceremony?

Remembering my Junior High graduation made me feel better about missing my High School graduation. I already had graduation ceremony memories, so I felt like I had the experience.

Me with my parents at my junior high graduation
Me with my parents at my Junior High graduation

Also, look to the future. Missing this graduation doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to attend one in the future. You never know how your health will be.

Plus, regardless of graduation ceremonies, I’m sure there are other things you are looking forward to. Focus on those!

Remember what is important

You are graduating! Whether that be from high school, college, master’s, etc… that is a huge accomplishment!

Don’t let the fact that you miss the graduation ceremony make you miss out on acknowledging that you are graduating! It is an exciting moment.

Going through school is hard work for everyone. If you went through school while dealing with a chronic illness (or other health challenges), then you are a badass. You should be proud of all your hard work! You should be proud of yourself!


Just because you have to miss your graduation doesn’t mean you should miss out on celebrating! Your graduation is worth celebrating in whatever way you can.

Do what you can virtually

Some schools (especially colleges) Livestream their graduation ceremony. Check with your school to see what you can do virtually.

Learn more about the different types of graduations for online students.Opens in a new tab.

Celebrate with friends and family

I know that I recommended avoiding social media, but don’t avoid your friends! Celebrate with them outside of the ceremony. Reminisce about your time at school and your favorite memories.

Celebrate with your family. Have a graduation party! Whether that means a big party with extended family and friends or getting food out and celebrating with your immediate family. Eat cake and ice cream! That makes everything better!

You can also celebrate when you get your diploma in the mail. Don’t just stick it in a drawer. Get a nice frameOpens in a new tab. and hang your diploma up. It’s not silly to celebrate getting your diploma even if you don’t get it at the graduation ceremony.

Do whatever you can to celebrate this accomplishment. You deserve to feel special!

Watch a Commencement Addresses

Watch a great commencement address to help you celebrate!

While you may have to miss your commencement address, there are many great ones online. To help you commemorate the occasion, here is a huge list of commencement speeches. Some of my favorites are below.

J.K. Rowling speaking at Harvard University in 2005

It’s not surprising that this was my favorite speech since I am a huge J.K. Rowling fan! In her speech, she talks about the importance of imagination and the benefits of failure. It is great and very motivating!

 Sheryl Sandberg speaking at UC Berkeley in 2016

Also not surprised that I was a fan of this speech since I loved Lean In and Option B. This is a great one to watch to help you deal with missing graduation.

As Sheryl Sandberg says, “Sometimes Option A will not be available, so you just got to kick the shit out of Option B.” Option B is celebrating the non-traditional way, so kick the shit out of that celebration!

Stephen Colbert speaking at Northwestern University in 2011

This speech is 80% humor and 20% life advice (but he makes that 20% count)!

Kurt Vonnegut speaking at Agnes Scott College in 1999

If you have read Kurt Vonnegut’s work and didn’t like it, skip this one. He is undoubtedly a very authentic and unique person. It jumps around without following a clear path or theme, but some great kernels of wisdom are mixed in.

I hope this post helps you accept missing graduation. If you only take away one thing, I hope it is that it’s okay just to do what you can. Celebrate graduating! Be proud of yourself!

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3 thoughts on “Tips to Help You Accept Missing Graduation

  1. Very proud of all your accomplishments! When you deal with an illness, and still stay positive and happy, perhaps that is the greatest accomplishment of all!

    1. I missed my university graduation in 1977 due to transportation issues. Still not over it. My mother cried and my dad was logical about it.
      Hung my diploma and still weep. Proudly attended my daughters post secondary events. One from university and one from trades college. Made me feel a little better.
      Missed high school prom because of chronic shyness.
      Felt like such a loser all around.

      1. I totally get being upset over missing graduation (and prom)! I’m glad you were able to attend your daughters’ graduations.

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