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“What’s keeping you awake at night?” A friend of mine asks this question when she wants to get to the heart of what’s on the minds of the people she loves. The worries that keep us awake at night can point to the core of who we are.

What’s on my mind tonight? The teachers. It’s 3:00 in the morning, and I can’t get you out of my mind.

You didn’t plan on this. And let’s be honest: teachers are planners. This is one giant curveball.

You were gearing up for spring break—that’s all the time off you needed. One week off, and then you had plans to head into the homestretch of the school year, the weeks we’ve all been waiting for. The most fun units that you save for springtime. The sentimental traditions. The finish lines. That last stretch where your team rounds third base and heads for home plate.

And now this, the closure that was one week, then two, and now four, probably eight, but who really knows?

I taught kindergarten and third grade, and the thought of someone taking my kiddos away from me in those last weeks? Well, it has me awake tonight, feeling so very sad for you.

RELATED: Dear Students, We Didn’t Even Get To Say Goodbye

I would have worried for the kids who were hungry—for food, yes, but also for soul care. For eye contact. For morning hugs and high-fives and secret handshakes. There’s so much you can learn by looking at your students, by the way they slump over their desk during a spelling test and the way they hold the book too close or too tight when they’re in the reading corner. You have spent months, weeks, days, and a million moments with them.

Your heartstrings are tied to them, and now your heart feels stretched in so many directions that it’s frayed down the middle.

A kindergarten teacher I know lined her kiddos up for the “last day” and one of her students said, “Well, I hope I see you again.” Oh, bless it all. That’s too much. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

In beginning literacy, we teach them that every good story has a beginning, middle, and an end . . . but your ending just got interrupted.

I get you, teachers.

In a week’s time, you’ve gone from being overlooked and underpaid, to now finally being recognized as some of the most important players who keep our world spinning. You’re the glitter and the glue.

And I hear you saying, “Right. We knew that, actually. Now can everybody just follow directions so we can get this virus under control and I can have my students back? We’ve got work to do.”

RELATED: Dear Teacher, Why Didn’t We Get To Say Goodbye?

I hear you, teachers. I get you.

You can call it work, but really it’s love.

You had more loving to do this year, and you thought you had more time.

I can’t fix it for you. But I know a thing or two about grief, and there’s a lot to be said for naming what is sad and letting it be sad. So I can sit in the space with you, I can lie awake at night with you on my mind, and I can get up to tell you this: the grief is real and valid and yours.

Grief means you loved well.

Thank you for loving our kids this hard, this much, this well.

Originally published on Facebook

Tricia Lott Williford

Tricia Lott Williford is a remarried widow, a writer, teacher, reader, and thinker. Thousands of readers join her each morning for a cup of coffee as they sign online to read today's funny, poignant stories that capture the fleeting moments of life. With raw transparency, honest grief, laughable joy, and a captivating voice, she shares the hard pieces of her story—and the redemption God offers in the midst of it. Tricia is the New York Times Bestselling author of many books, including Just. You. Wait.; You Can Do This; And Life Comes Back; and Let’s Pretend We’re Normal. She collects words, quotes, and bracelets, and she lives in Denver with her husband and two sons. You can get to know Tricia through her regular posts at tricialottwilliford.com.

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