As this holiday season ramps up, you and your family may be wondering how to celebrate during a pandemic. Will you travel to see loved ones? Can you gather and commemorate your traditions? Perhaps the first recommendation is to plan ahead, to help alleviate stress. That means talking openly about your expectations, your comfort level and what is feasible for you. Communicating with family members and listening to their concerns is vital.
Assess the risks of gathering with honesty. Are their people in your extended family who are compromised or not comfortable with getting together? There are a lot of things to consider this holiday season. If you are going to travel, there are both financial and health considerations. You may want to see your family, however, cannot afford the time off, or the travel expenses. Be honest with your family, remember, this pandemic impacts people on many levels. Be open and understanding with yourself and others.
Plan the details as much as possible. Who is going to host the meals, who is going to attend? Will some people bring their special dishes? There might have to be some agreement about isolating (and testing) before the event. This would avoid any controversy about mask wearing during the gathering. Remember this is an attempt to bring joy and unity to a year that has had (for many) far too little of it.
Remain open and empathetic. If one of your family members has respiratory issues or an immune disorder, they will not be comfortable with large gatherings, family or otherwise. Respect and support that decision, remembering this pandemic will not last forever. Remind yourself, (and others if necessary) that it is temporary and that everyone has their own comfort levels, their own fears, their own health concerns. Now is a great time to practice loving kindness.
If you can’t gather, find other ways to celebrate with your family. Create a zoom meeting; cook your favorite meal despite not having all of your family with you. In other words, keep your beloved traditions even if you have to modify how you share them. Write letters to friends and family expressing your gratitude for their love and tell them specifically how you miss them. Keep the connections alive during the holidays regardless of what is going on. Step back and breathe into your memories of all the wonderful times you were able to share. Talk about them, laugh or cry, share these memories with your family and friends.
Write a gratitude list. It is easy during difficult times to forget all that you have. At the same time, remember it is okay to feel sorrow or grief for the way things are. Be grateful for the grief as it reminds you/us of the power of love and how palpable life is when you bring your awareness to happy times, loving fun time. Write down the littlest things you are grateful for; the coffee shop with its amazing cappuccinos, the neighbor who always says hello, the car you are able to get in and drive. Openly thank all of the things that make you smile; music, your pets greeting you when you arrive home, the sound of your name in your significant other’s mouth. In other words, shift your consciousness from your head to your heart.
If you are feeling overwhelmed this holiday season, take a breath and step back. Write down what is essential to you, what can you let go of? Maybe not being able to gather has given you a reprieve from an overbearing family. Use this time to reconstruct the way you would like to spend your holiday seasons. What rituals and traditions do you want to incorporate or let go of?
Above all, keep your heart connected to those you love, the memories you share, and the willingness to be together in different ways, but always within the spirit of love.