It’s no revelation that 2020 has been a really rough year for everyone, and that we are all hoping 2021 rings in something better. But before we get there we must head into the holiday season. Every year while there are families looking forward to their holiday get-togethers, there is an equal number of families dreading what will come (from seeing obnoxious relatives to feeling alone at the lack of family or loved ones). However this year, I have a feeling there will be an overwhelming number of families disappointed by the holidays as they struggle with the loss of traditions and family gatherings due to COVID-19.
It is here that I must wave my hand feverishly and agree that I am one of those who will be disappointed. My family has a long tradition of Thanksgiving at my parents with my cousins from both sides of the family, Christmas Eve dinner at my Aunt’s with my cousins and their extended family, and Christmas Day now at my in-laws with their family (who have all generously welcomed my immediate family into the fold). Yet this year, I am not sure any of that will be happening, and if it is I will likely have to remove myself from the picture. This year I am pregnant, an exciting time that I hoped to share with my family and loved ones. I had envisioned cute holiday themed outfits with my growing baby bump. Images of lots of loving hands placed on my belly showing love to my growing baby. Years of looking back at pictures joking how it was baby’s first holiday season even though they weren’t physically around for it. But the virus has taken that all away. Being pregnant puts baby and I at greater risk if I get COVID-19: a fever risks a miscarriage and shortness of breath while pregnant increases my risk of needing a ventilator. Therefore, I have had to make the tough decision to remove myself from larger family gatherings. A time where I wanted to celebrate and share experiences has been taken from me.
While I am extremely grateful to be pregnant in 2020 (this gratitude is a topic for another blog), I am also extremely disappointed that my experience is not as I had hoped. Therefore I am trying to find a way to make new traditions and change my mindset on what my expectations had been. I may not be able to see my siblings or cousins, but I am still able to celebrate. Maybe we do a Zoom dinner? Maybe I pick a few individuals I know will quarantine and we celebrate only with them? Maybe I stay home in my pajamas all day and enjoy Hallmark movies and ice cream? The possibilities are endless. It makes me realize that the holidays do not have to be about what we have done for years, or what others expect of us. But they are about rejoicing for what we do have, creating a community that we can rely on, and being happy with the choices I make for myself. Who knows, maybe I will like the solitude even more and carry the more intimate setting as a new way of celebrating. Whatever I choose (or you choose to do), it may not be perfect or what was expected but it will be how I want to celebrate in the here and now of what 2020 has become. And in 2021, with a new baby when it arrives, I will once again work on changing/breaking tradition as I work to make the holidays perfect for someone else instead of myself. Maybe the holiday season doesn’t have to be looked at as dysfunctional as long as we focus on our own expectations and not others.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselor