Are you unable to spend Easter or Passover with your family this year? Coping with holidays during the COVID-19 pandemic is a unique set of circumstances, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t helpful solutions.
Sheltering in place is tough on its own, but facing major holidays with all the reminders and traditions can be extra painful. Holidays are supposed to be a happy time when family and friends come together to celebrate, but due to COVID-19, you might not be able to do that this year. Not only are many of you separated from family that you would normally share special occasions with, but holidays can bring up more stimulus than usual which triggers painful feelings. You might be reminded of rituals like Easter egg hunts at the grandparents’ house or Passover Seder with your whole family.
Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind and changing your holiday traditions is a huge change. Of itself, grief is neither a pathological condition nor a personality disorder. Grief is simply the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behaviour. Spending holidays with your family is a familiar pattern of behaviour that you might not be able to do this year.
If someone in you or someone in your family is sick, then you are probably scared and heartbroken about that while simultaneously being sad about not being able to spend Easter or Passover together.
If your family is safe and healthy, you might be happy about that while also feeling disappointed that you can’t be together. That’s grief too.
Here are a few helpful suggestions for getting through the holidays during the Coronavirus pandemic.
1. Be honest. It’s crucial to have someone to talk about your memories and feelings with. Tell your friend that you don’t need to be fixed, you just want to be heard. Then tell the truth about how you feel, it will make it safe for other people to do the same. Here’s a tip from the book Moving Beyond Loss,
“When you have a feeling of sadness or loneliness, etc., say to one of your trusted people, ‘In this moment, I feel very sad,’ or very alone, or whatever you feel. That way, the moment can pass, and you can go to the next moment. Say, ‘In this moment,’ instead of saying, ‘Today I feel.’ Today is too long to stay stuck in one feeling.”
2. Honour holiday traditions (if it feels right for you). There are so many ways to do this. You just have to adjust to find what works best for you and your family (and acknowledge that it’s different). Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Decorate Easter eggs.
- Make the favourite foods of your distant family members.
- Use decorations that remind you of your loved ones.
- Call your family or friends and share your favourite holiday memories.
- Instead of having an Easter egg hunt at grandma’s house, you can have one in your own garden.
- Watch church service online at the same time.
3. Don’t be strong. Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one, “You have to be strong for the children”. How many of you dutifully act strong for your kids, or other family members, while burying your own feelings? You know what happens? Not only do we stuff our own feelings, but we teach others that they should hide their feelings too. The Grief Recovery Institute prefers being honest over being “strong”.
4. Participate. It’s hard not to isolate when the whole world is forced to do just that. It’s crucial to force yourself to participate and engage. It’s normal to feel alone right now, but isolating yourself can make it worse.
5. Feel your feelings. Remember that you can’t avoid your feelings. You can’t go over, under or around them. When you avoid the pain associated with a broken heart, you’re only pushing it away temporarily. You’ll have to go through it eventually. There’s no way to avoid it.
6. Don’t binge on food or alcohol. When children are sad they are often told, “Don’t feel bad. Have a cookie, you’ll feel better.” The cookie doesn’t make the child feel better, it makes the child feel different. Unfortunately the sadness never gets addressed. When we get older, many of us use alcohol and food in the same way, to avoid painful feelings, while never recovering from our grief.
7. Don’t be too busy. Hyperactivity and business will distract you temporarily, but it won’t heal your heart.
8. Get a copy of The Grief Recovery Handbook. The principles and actions of The Grief Recovery Method have been used by more than a half million people to help deal with the pain caused by loss and it can help you too.
Want to read more about taking care of your heart during the Coronavirus pandemic?
Let me know in the comments and I will write some more articles for you.