Navigating the Holidays with COVID

Written by Tami Boesiger

I was trying to set up a birthday celebration when my kids got honest. The group text turned into admissions that with COVID numbers rising, there was apprehension about getting together at all anymore. There were concerns about where everyone has been and who they’ve been with, uneasiness about getting together in a big group, talk about sitting this holiday season out.

I don’t mind saying my Mama heart dropped into my stomach. Just our immediate family is 10 people. What were they suggesting? I never suspected back in March we’d still be doing this in November. It’s one thing to spend Easter in my jammies on the couch without my kids, but quite another to think of Thanksgiving and Christmas that way.

We decided to have a family meeting online to talk it out. Two hours later, we had a plan that everyone felt comfortable with. I was happy we worked it out in a way that allowed me to spend Thanksgiving with my kids, but I’ll admit I felt crabby about it. It must have showed as my husband asked and in separate texts my daughters asked, “Are you okay?”

My reply? “I’m okay. I’m just over this.”

And I am. I. AM. SO. OVER. THIS!

But like it or not, here we are. I know I’m not alone. I’ve been hearing about it in my office too. We’re all tired, all worried about how to celebrate safely. How can we navigate this holiday season with a pandemic breathing down our necks?

Be honest.

Have the hard conversations. Talk about your comfort level and what you need to feel safe. Be clear about what you can and cannot do. Because my kids were honest about their concerns, I can alter my activities accordingly to ease their fears. Avoid vague references about your whereabouts and be forthcoming about what you’re doing to build trust. I’ve told my kids everywhere I’ve been and who I’ve been with. They need to know I am not hiding anything. If we don’t give our people all the information, they may steer clear of any contact with us. Take a deep breath, remember you’re an adult who can handle hard things, and be honest.

Be flexible and give grace.

People have a variety of thoughts and feelings about getting together. Our circumstances, our situations, our consequences are all different. We need to recognize and allow for that. You may not think precautions are necessary, but are you willing to take them to see your loved ones? Extend grace. Lots of it. Tons of it. Truckloads of GRACE. Remember how much you love those who don’t agree with you and choose to be gracious. Believe the best. Keep your frustration in check. SEE THE PERSON, NOT THE PROBLEM.

Keep your eyes on the prize.

Remember the end goal–protecting those you love and doing what you can to see them. I’m not quite in the vulnerable category for COVID risk, but I must be close enough for my kids’ comfort as they’ve asked me to be more restrictive in my activities. This may cramp my style (and bring on the crabby) but if that’s what it takes to see the people I love, let the cramping begin. If I want the holidays to include those I love, it may involve sacrifice. Consider the sacrifices you’re willing to make to reach your goal of spending the holidays with those who are important to you.

Grieve the losses.

You may feel sad, especially if you aren’t able to come to a consensus about how to handle your festivities. Let yourself feel that sadness. Not seeing those you love is a loss. Don’t push aside the tears. Let them flow. Give them space. Trying to ignore your feelings won’t make them go away. You have a right to feel how you do. Recognize the stages of grief—denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance—and work through them. Process the feelings and move on.

Be creative and utilize technology.

I’ve taken comfort during this strange era by being thankful we live in a time where we can connect in a variety of ways. There’s nothing like face-to-face, real-life, in-person connection, but can you imagine surviving this pandemic without the multitude of applications allowing us to “see” each other? In our family meeting online, the silly banter that always exists in our home was still there. The chaos was more comical as the app had a difficult time keeping up with the conversation! If you’re not able to see those you love this season, don’t scrap the holiday completely, connect with them online. Use the tools you have at your disposal to get your relational fix.

Remember this is a season.

My family reminded me this is an unusual time. This is not how holidays will be for all eternity (even though it feels like it). A person can do just about anything if they know it won’t last forever. I can suffer through and do things a little differently this year. And so can you. When the crabby starts to invade, remember this is a season. It is temporary. We’ve survived other difficult times. It’s not fun and nobody likes it, but you can do it. This will pass.

The COVID road has been long and hard, but you have done it. We all wish it was over, but it’s not. We can grumble and complain and feel sorry for ourselves, or we can deal with it. It’s possible for our relationships to come out better on the other side. Let’s use our energy in strengthening our relationships by being honest, flexible, gracious, sacrificial, and patient rather than bemoaning our horrible fate. Trudge through those hard conversations with Galatians 6:9 in mind:

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (NLT)

You can do this. You HAVE been doing it. We will get through this. One day at a time.

Tami is a counselor at The CORE Counseling Center located on the King of Kings Church campus. You can contact Tami at 402.513.0148 or by emailing her at Tamib@kingofkings.org.