4 Steps to Enjoying the Holidays — Even During a Pandemic

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By Elisabeth Kee, LPC

The holidays almost always bring up a flurry of emotions, but this year it seems as if a blizzard has hit. Instead of preparing ourselves for awkward interactions with family members we only see once a year, we are dealing with something new and much more distressing: the idea that we may not experience those interactions at all. Moreover, it may be dangerous to see our loved ones this year.  

This is a huge blow to many in an already difficult year. The oasis of the holidays often carries us through the seemingly unending desert of winter. What will we do without this oasis? How do we cope? Here are some steps to help make the holidays still a bright spot to the end of an unprecedented year.

First: Acknowledge the loss. We are grieving the loss of normalcy. Many of us are making the decision to stay home this year, which means that the holidays will look different, and we will miss the joy of spending time with family and friends we don’t often see. Some of us are grieving the loss of a family member due to COVID or another illness, and the holidays are a sorrowful reminder of their absence. Grieve. Allow yourself to feel all of the feelings that this loss brings up. 

Related: How to Manage the Emotional Ramifications of Social Distancing

Second: This is NOT forever. This is one holiday season and there are many more to come. Hope is on the horizon with vaccines showing promising results, and potentially safer mandates rolling out in the next month or so. The virus will be contained in the future (though it is hard to pinpoint exactly when that will be). The holiday season next year will hopefully be as normal as it was previous years. Take some solace in the fact that if you choose to forgo gatherings this year, you are keeping your family safe for future holiday seasons. 

Third: You can still celebrate! 2020 has truly been the year of creativity. People are inventing new ways to connect and still feel the magic of the holiday season. If you choose to celebrate in person there are ways to make the gathering safer: keep it small (10 people or fewer), wear masks, social distance, and get tested before and after you go. Exchange air hugs rather than contact hugs this year. Bring your own utensils and food, and if weather permits, eat outside. If you choose to celebrate virtually this year there are ways to make yourself feel more connected to family and friends. While cooking, you can chat via Zoom or FaceTime with family as they also prepare their meals. Play virtual games like Jackbox, Bingo, Charades, or Among Us via video for some familial competition. If you live close to family and friends, cook them some food and leave it for them at their home. Or each of you can cook your favorite dishes and exchange some!

Fourth: Share your feelings of loss with your family. It can be cathartic to know that everyone is feeling some degree of disappointment this holiday. Also, tell them you love them. Tell them you miss them. When we see each other in person, sometimes we forget to say these things because we can sense the love in the air. This year, it may be beneficial to turn these intangible feelings into concrete words. It can be a lonely time in this world right now. You can never say “I love you” and “I miss you” too much.

It’s been a trying year. While there are many things in this world to be grateful for, it’s still OK to say “this sucks!” Feel both the pain and gratitude, while maintaining perspective. This is one moment in many more to come. Most of all, be kind to yourself and others this holiday season. We will get through this.

You don’t have to go this alone.

*In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to offer telemental health sessions.*

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