As with most travel plans people made in 2020, COVID-19 is proving to disrupt Americans’ holiday plans this year. According to one survey, most Americans (54%) will not be traveling for the holidays this year, and 61% said they had to cancel or change existing plans due to COVID.
There is no doubt the holidays will look and feel different this year. This is to be expected and many of us are growing accustomed to holding plans loosely during this year of pandemic, but during the holidays, which can already be a difficult season for many, not being able to travel to see family and friends will make this a very difficult time of year.
As a physician, I want to acknowledge it’s important to stay safe during a pandemic and do what we can to minimize the spread of COVID-19. But I also want to address the pain many of you are feeling this holiday season.
Messages of Christmas joy and holiday cheer tend to remind us of what we’re not joyful and cheerful about. We remember the loved ones who are no longer here, the financial strain we’re facing, or we feel alone during a time when it seems everyone else is surrounded by friends and family. This is why Christmas can surface so much grief and pain for people.
I ache for my mother and father at Christmastime. Christmas day was my father’s favorite day of the year, and he spent months thinking of unique gifts for each of us. My mother decorated every nook and cranny of our home. I see the look on their faces when we came down Christmas morning. And I’m reminded they are no longer here.
This Christmas, even if you are not grieving a loved one you’ve lost, perhaps you are grieving a loved one you can’t see due to it being unsafe to travel. Maybe you’re grieving the large family gathering you host each year. Maybe you’re grieving not being able to exchange gifts in person and having to mail them instead.
We are all grieving something, big or small, during this unique holiday season, and it’s important to be honest that while the holidays are joyous, they can also hurt, especially this year.
So, what can you do with your grief this season? Acknowledge it, but don’t acknowledge it alone.