It is the beginning of May, and most people are now several weeks into some version of at-home social distancing. For many people there is hardship, danger, and loneliness, and we are collectively having to face the harsh reality of not knowing what is going to happen. For some, however, this experience has predominantly involved increased quality time with family, self-care, and rest. Life continues to move forward, and as such, we are navigating how to celebrate milestones when we cannot be physically together.
Why do we celebrate, and what are celebrations at their core? As much as we may enjoy the beauty of a wedding or the excitement of a giant party, what we are truly looking for from celebrations is enjoyment and social support. Although many elements of your celebration will be different, you still have access to the essential parts.
Utilize Technology to Connect
When planning a celebration for yourself or others, remember that connection is key.
Free video chatting services are available over a variety of platforms – find ways to connect with loved ones whether through setting up a virtual party time or making individual plans with people you care about. Utilize social media to organize group conversations, and if you need creativity tips, search online for what others are doing around the world. Between senior parades, balcony concerts, and care package drop-offs, people everywhere are finding inventive ways to care for each other, and they are frequently sharing it online. Browse around and pick up some fun ideas for your celebration.
Special Can Be Small
Find ways to make the day or time special, in whatever small way makes a difference to you or to your loved one. When in the same place for extended periods of time, days can feel very similar. Find ways to make a celebration a little different from other days, whether it’s decorating a room, having breakfast in bed, or making something special to eat. It is okay if it is on a smaller scale than it would have been otherwise, because it’s about enjoying the moment more than it is about meeting the expectations you had under different circumstances.
This can be an opportunity for an important conversation with children, as well – we can be disappointed in unmet expectations, or we can be grateful for the fortunes and pleasures of the present moment. Both are valid feelings that social distancing and fears of COVID-19 invite into our lives. Ask children what they love most about their celebrations (birthdays, graduations), and collaborate with them on how to capture whatever the most important parts are in quarantine. If they love playing with their friends, try to set up a virtual playdate on a multiplayer video game platform (like Minecraft or Animal Crossing). If they love talking to friends/family or seeing a lot of people they care about, set up a video chat room where people can virtually stop by during a certain time. If they love choosing what they get to do, work on creating a fun plan for the day at home.
Tell People What You Need
Celebrating a milestone in isolation can be emotionally challenging for anyone. Whether you are celebrating yourself, someone you live with, someone far away, or a child – enlist the help of loved ones, and tell people how they can show up for you or the person you are celebrating. The people who care about you want you to be happy, and sometimes people aren’t sure how to help. Offer people the opportunity to show up.
It is natural to grieve the celebrations we would have had under normal circumstances – celebratory gatherings make up some of the best moments of most of our lives. Feelings of sadness and disappointment are normal and okay, and it can only help to acknowledge them. However, as with many of the changes and limitations at hand, the experience is determined by how we choose to react. We can reframe the disappointment of unmet expectations, and begin to think instead of how these limitations offer a chance to put more intention into the way we are celebrating significant events in our lives.
Whether it is the celebration of a birthday, graduation, promotion, or new addition to the family – it will not be the same as it would have been, but it can still be an enjoyable time with loved ones. As we navigate these times of social distancing and quarantine celebrating and caring for each other becomes increasingly important. Of course it is heartbreaking to maintain physical distance from the people we care about, but our ability to care for each other is perhaps greater than ever.