The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-2021 has changed most aspects of our lives, in both subtle and dramatic ways. How we will celebrate the end-of-year holidays is no exception.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with other government and public health authorities in the U.S. and elsewhere, have emphatically requested that people stay home and limit celebratory gatherings to the few people who are part of your household or your small social “bubble” or “pod.”
Since mid-March, you have probably spent most of your time isolating at home and limiting your travels and your contact with others. If you are an essential worker who must be out facing the general public, you are probably stressed as a result of the higher risk and the constant reminder that our environment is different than before. If you have been working from home, you probably feel a bit stir-crazy.
If you have suffered the loss of loved ones this past year, the holidays will present a stark reminder that they’re gone.
For some retired people who already suffer from loneliness, the current situation only makes things worse. The holiday season this year may be more difficult for single people, too.
Whatever your circumstances, chances are you crave human contact more than ever. Your desire for the comfort of familiar faces and traditions and some semblance of normalcy is probably strong.
Yet, with the number of new infections and deaths surging to all-time highs in the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world, it’s unsafe to forge ahead with holiday gatherings and celebrations.
I believe that the greatest gift you can give during this season of disruption, disappointment, and loss is the gift of connection.
Early in the pandemic, many people made a concerted effort to reach out to others, just to ask, “How are you doing?” As time has gone on, this practice has faded away. Perhaps, as people adjusted to the current situation, it became less necessary.
But now, as we head into a season in which there will be fewer concerts and parties, less travel and in-person shopping, and limited or forgone visits with loved ones, I anticipate that the need for connection will be greater than ever.
Sadly, with the dramatic rise of dire statistics, there will be more need for comfort and support for people who are experiencing sickness and loss.
Here are several things you can do. Just like with volunteering, you will probably find that your actions will not only help others, they will make you feel better too.
Set up times to call your loved ones and friends. I know you’re probably tired of Zoom, Skype, and Facetime, but seeing and talking to people on screen still beats being alone. An old-fashioned phone call will be greatly appreciated, too.
While the practice of sending cards has declined over the years, this might be a good year to revive this custom. Whether you send Christmas cards, Hanukkah cards, Happy New Year cards, or all-encompassing Holiday cards, the intent is the same – it’s an expression of glad tidings and good will. And I suspect that they may be appreciated more this year than ever.
Even sending a personalized, friendly email would be welcomed. In today’s world of short texts, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media, even email has fallen out of vogue. But I think email offers a better opportunity for a personal connection than most of today’s social media apps.
Over the years, you have probably heard the advice that many people value hand-made gifts more than store-bought products. During past years, your holiday schedule may have been too busy to allow much time for personalized gift-making. But this year, you probably have more time on your hands. If you have a talent such as drawing, painting, photography, music, writing, sewing, crafts, woodworking, baking, or anything else, a gift created by you will bring a personal touch and mean a lot to others.
Another way to create connection is through photos and stories. If you can’t be with your loved ones this year, you can dig out some photos and either send copies to people (by mail or electronically) or post them on an online document/photo sharing site (such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or many others). You can also write stories about memorable times you’ve shared. Recording a video is another possibility. It doesn’t have to be a big production; anything that recalls good people and good times and conveys caring and a human touch is good.
Whatever method(s) you choose, consider taking the time and making the effort to check in with people you care about and do something to reach out and connect. Even people who seem like they are doing okay and weathering the storm pretty well may still be feeling down and missing their loved ones and holiday traditions. After the exceptionally difficult year we have had, I’m sure that anything you do to let others know you are thinking of them will be welcome.
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© 2020 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.