Holidays, special events, and celebrations have changed dramatically since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time many have been left with empty chairs at family gatherings because loved ones cannot or are not willing to attend family celebrations. With no end in sight, many traditions and religious events have been canceled due to the virus. This can be difficult for those who live alone or far from family, and especially hard for those who may have lost loved ones. These changes can bring feelings of grief, guilt, or anger. However, there are still many ways to find moments of joy in the midst of sadness and loss during the upcoming holiday season. Here are a few suggestions for celebrating during the pandemic:
- Rethink your family traditions. If a big dinner or party is not possible, consider virtual ways to meet and keep in touch with your loved ones.
- Follow the CDC’s recommendations on gatherings at your home. If possible, hold events outdoors and ensure people wear masks.
- If you’ve lost a loved one, honor them with a special ornament, or candle lit during the holiday.
- Participate in virtual services if you cannot attend religious services or events in person.
- Take care of your mental health by reducing stress and staying active.
- Take time each day to recharge your batteries and avoid trying to do too much.
If you are feeling pressured to attend family gatherings and yo do not feel comfortable going, remember that it is OK to say ‘no’ or ask to postpone instead of canceling entirely. It is important to keep healthy boundaries. Focus on the facts and why you want to stay safe. This is especially important if you need to protect vulnerable family members, such as those that are elderly or have underlying health conditions.
If another family member is having a difficult time understanding why you are choosing not to visit or participate in family gatherings, it is important to emphasize why you feel the way that you do and the reasons why you believe it is necessary. You can acknowledge that you are upset about not attending, but mention that you hope to next year or whenever the situation is under control. If there is conflict, be firm that you are doing this out of love, not out of fear or spite.
Despite physical separation, it is still important to stay connected. You can still give gifts, talk online or over the phone, or even in person at a safe distance. You can even continue old traditions such as decorating a Christmas tree, donating to a charity, or having a smaller, immediate family-only gathering.
If you are struggling this holiday season, reach out. We are seeing patients through telehealth services at this time.