Thanksgiving is just a few days away and begins the month-long tradition of holiday celebrations. Typically fun, joyous occasions for many people, even the most irritable in the crowd find reasons to enjoy. But this year, for families and individuals following coronavirus protocol, expectations are challenging.
As a result, this has become a time of increased anxiety and sadness for many people. I hear it in their voices and read about it on their social media posts. This has hit my family as well. “I’m having a hard time because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get back home” a niece recently told me. Her younger sister echoed the same sentiments.
Across the country, festive dinners for 30 have now been replaced by quiet evening meals for two or three, or maybe one. Cuddling with grandchildren won’t happen, cousins won’t play with each other, and friends can’t gather to raise a glass of good cheer. Holiday traditions have been put on pause.
And it’s okay to feel sad.
You don’t need me to tell you this – I get that. For years, the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas was the saddest time of my year. Traveling to rural Wisconsin in late December was always dicey, time off from work wasn’t always available, and I usually stayed in Michigan to celebrate with my aunt. I was lucky there were two of us, so I know how to cook a celebratory meal for two. (And more creative ways to use leftover turkey than you can imagine.) But I still missed being with my sisters and nieces and nephews, and all the holiday hoopla that surrounds this time of year. That’s what makes this month so special, isn’t it? All of the traditions fill your heart and soul and keep you toasty warm during the long Midwest winters. And this year, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas, those traditions will be missing for many.
Instead, your favorite holiday songs may make you cry. Decorations may not be as elaborate. Virtual hugs will be shared through Facetime and Zoom, but you’ll miss wiping up sticky fingerprints left by over-sugared children, or listening to your grandmother tell stories of her childhood, in a voice so low, you have to strain to hear it.
And it’s okay to feel sad.
I marvel at how people are making creative alternate opportunities this year. Drive-up dinners, home-baked pies for everyone on their list, and a Christmas dinner made on the grill for a backyard winter picnic. Some folks are planning with their distant families to binge-watch the same shows. It won’t be the same, but maybe new traditions will even be born from it. (I also marvel at the people who are jumping up and down for joy because they don’t have to travel, or listen to Uncle Ned’s off-color jokes when he’s had too much egg-nog, or decide how to divide themselves between multiple family visits, but that’s another story.)
Yes, there are likely people who have it much worse off than you do, but if the sadness gets to you, don’t play the guilt trip. Allow yourself to spend one day moping and feeling down, but only one day. Then plan something uplifting for the next day. And the day after that, and the day after that. Wrap yourself in a blanket of love knowing you have people to miss, and start planning next year’s celebrations. Just allow yourself the feeling of no-guilt sadness – this too shall pass.