In almost any ordinary year, we would normally see multi-generational families, hopefully enjoying a traditional get-together for the holidays. The very luckiest of families may still be able to do that this year.
But for most of us, this is no ordinary year. Being separated from our loved ones over the holidays this year may be harder and especially more difficult now with COVID-19. As a result of this virus, there will likely be more conversations to have than asking about, “What’s on your Christmas list this year?”
Where we are right now
According to the CDC, travel can increase your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19. They also recommend postponing travel and staying home as it is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
For many of us in the State of California, we are on a stay-at-home order and all non-essential travel has been banned. Additionally, California public health officials have recommended that visitors from out of state, including California residents, quarantine for 14 days after entering or returning to California.
This can lead to already intensified feelings of loneliness as millions are being separated from their loved ones this year.
On top of that, many people are feeling the weight of extra COVID-19 stressors this year: isolation, loneliness, difficulty sleeping, the pain of physical distance from loved ones, and perhaps struggling with the idea that this may even be your first holiday season ever, separated from your family and friends.
No matter what your experience is, please know that you are simply a normal person, having very normal and upsetting reactions, to an incredibly abnormal situation that has not existed for over one hundred years. You may even feel like you’re the only one. Trust me. That’s not even close to being true. Billions of people are feeling very much like you are.
But it’s the holidays and many of us are longing to see family that we haven’t seen (probably) most of the year and/or just want to be with others to celebrate. Our own family is struggling with all of this.
Traveling to visit family and other loved ones
At this stage of living with coronavirus, every gathering is a risk and that is something that you and your loved ones will need to discuss…probably several times.
This can be rather tricky from an emotional point of view. Our longing to be with those we love and miss is totally understandable. Our loved ones may also be missing us just as much.
If you plan to visit with others outside of your home, you need to do a risk assessment – both for yourselves and any loved ones you are contemplating visiting. Again, you will need to discuss the risks versus the potential rewards.
We all know that being outdoors is better than being indoors because of air flow and being able to maintain the recommended 6-foot distance from others. Living here in Southern California does have its advantages and one of those is weather, which prompts the following question: What options are available? Can the gathering you’re attending be outside? Are you able to maintain a safe distance from others during the event?
If you know you’ll be inside and particularly if you’re visiting others that are in at-risk groups or older, guests may want to consider isolating and getting tested just beforehand. That may reduce the risks and bring more people at ease. However, the reality is that there is no fail-safe way to gather free of risk.
What if one or more of you doesn’t want to go
These can be difficult conversations to have. But the most important thing is to fully listen to your loved ones and make sure they feel heard. Together, lay out all the concerns.
And please keep this in mind: each person’s thoughts and feelings need to be respected. They are all valid if you agree with them or not.
To that end, it is not going to be helpful to “COVID shame” a loved one because they may not agree with you.
Whenever possible, try to find common ground and see what you can agree on:
- Will we travel?
- If so, will you get tested before and after the travel or event?
- Will you isolate before or after?
- Will you commit to wearing a mask when inside?
- Who may be at the highest risk for the virus?
- If a close friend or family member at the event is hugging or physically touching, is that alright?
- Are you okay spending the holidays apart this year?
- What events are acceptable or not?
Things to try
Here are some additional ideas you might want to consider to help you get through the restrictions of COVID-19 in 2020?
- Is it possible before deciding to spend events apart, that these events can go online? So much of this year has been on Zoom anyways, why not have a holiday family dinner remote or opening presents on Zoom?
- A number of people I know have decided to postpone celebrating with their loved ones until everyone feels safer.
- Perhaps plan on getting together later in 2021. This idea can give everyone something to look forward to.
- Consider increasing the number of video calls with family and friends. More contact may help to lessen some of the pain.
- Look for the little wins. Sometimes it’s the little things. I am missing some of my own family right now and have been having a hard time getting into the spirit of the season. Rather than waiting until the December festivities to arrive, so in addition to using these above tips, I have also started playing holiday music two weeks earlier this year!
Explore your creativity and remember this: all pandemics come to an end!
I hope that you found this article helpful. If you have any questions or ideas about this topic as it relates to your personal situation, please feel free and encouraged to contact me for a free 15-minute consultation to see if I am a good fit for what you need.
In the meantime, I want to wish you and your loved ones the very best holiday season that current circumstances allow.