February is upon us. We have survived almost an entire year of a pandemic. Our life before COVID seems to be a distant dream. Almost daily, I hear myself say something like, "Remember when we used to (fill in blank with almost anything...concerts, festivals, plays, restaurants etc.)? Or, "Remember when we went out to dinner and sat side by side with other people?" I miss all of these things so much! Tonight, my daughter said very plainly, "Remember when we used to just go out?" with a chuckle, but also a bit of grief in her tone. Of course these are just the special things. What about shopping for food without worry of getting sick, or sending our kids to school and hoping that all of the protocols are in place, and that they wear their masks, and that everyone will stay healthy? What about the fear of our parents and grandparents developing the virus in a life threatening way? It's definitely a weird world that can often leave us feeling angry, frustrated and fearful at the end of the day.
The current health crisis has brought great grief and strife to many people around the world. I think for almost everybody, it was a tremendously different, confusing and disappointing year. No one can deny it. However as I sit here writing, I can't help but think about the positive things that my family and I have learned during this time.
Grief is important and should be acknowledged! We have all lost many things over the last year. As a world community, we lost jobs, school experiences, in-person time to develop friendships, the ability to touch and be touched by others, the freedom to go places, be with our family, opportunities to care for our loved ones, and perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to be truly present with others. No matter what age we are, we have all lost real life social connections, in one way or another. For me, just sharing with my daugher what I miss about my pre-COVID life, helps her to open up and it allows us to move through the grief, little by little, and eventually move on to being grateful for all that we can do together. So, let yourself and others in your home talk about what they miss. We need to continue to recognize all that has changed. If we ignore it or simply disregard all that is lost, we are sending out the message that it is somehow normal or ok. The normal part is the grief we feel. Give yourself permission to be upset or angry, and let your kids express their feelings as well! Sharing the losses can help you feel more connected to each other. There is a sense of shared disappointment. Let your kids see that this is true for all of you. It will build resilience for your whole family knowing you are all in it together.
Find ways to replace the disappointments. Be openminded and try new things! The reality is, our life is different now. Days and days go by without even leaving our homes! We are absolutely limited in how we can spend our time, so now is the time to think outside our comfort zone. Learn a new skill like baking, painting, woodworking, or mastering puzzles. Read more books! I know in our house, my youngest insists that we take out all of the instruments in the house, every few days, make our own house band and march through the house. It's silly and fun and helps us all relax. Another thing we did was learn how to make our own ice cream. It's a fun family activity and makes everyone in our home smile. I don't know if we would be do these things if we weren't at home so much, but I do know I am grateful for these experiences, because they encourage all of us to be silly, move our bodies, laugh, and feel less stress.
Be content and present with less busyiness. When I look back on my life a couple years ago, I was booked with work, family and personal things all the time. My family was always off to a class or event. We hardly took a weekend off. We were generally happy, but I do remember feeling like we needed to slow down a bit and just be together at home more. Now, in early 2021, our life is quiet (although we are not a quiet family ;-), we do much less in any given week, and being home is the norm. I have to say, I do like it. I have grown accustomed to the quiet. I enjoy the quality time with my children. I don't miss the carpooling and craziness of weekends filled to the brim. As I mentioned above, I crave time with friends. I do. But I am forever grateful for this time for bringing me back to center, for reminding me of how to slow down, for teaching me how to be fully present with my family. I have learned, there is rarely a reason to rush or hurry. We create all of these unecessary timelines for ourselves, and it makes us feel like we are missing more and more all the time. Truly, what we need is within us and around us.
Don't get me wrong, the winter is still long with three children in the house and some days are exhausting. But I am grateful to have the laughter and the tears, the joy and the saddness, the arguing and the teasing. It makes us a normal family, doing the best we can in a strange time of our lives.
Stay safe and warm. Oh and get outside! It is bound to make your body and brain feel better!