Holidays in the Time of Pandemic

Holidays in the Time of Pandemic

As the holidays approach, many of us are trying desperately to hold on to and honor our traditions. We’re planning socially distanced get togethers, keeping the number of guests small, requiring masks when not eating or drinking. We hope to make lovely memories, despite the reality of a deadly virus stalking us and changing how we go about our daily lives. But, approaching the holidays in this manner, trying to do as we have always done (in many cases) isn’t a good idea.

In the face of the myriad challenges we are all facing, we’re desperate for normalcy, familiarity, pleasure, and safety.  We’re holding on for dear life. One thing I’ve learned, though, is that we cannot hold onto that which will not be held. Life is a constant stream of change, always moving forward, offering different experiences along the way, but devoid of security, guarantees, or exceptions to the rules. There is a natural course that if we could learn to relax and let it carry us forward instead of fighting against it, we might enjoy the trip and achieve harmony and balance.

Dealing with my family estrangement and being left alone as I age, I understand what it’s like to hold on for dear life. I’ve been there, got the t-shirt. I also understand that it doesn’t work. Going against the flow only deepens the raw wounds by not allowing the light in to heal them. 

Many parents and grandparents still reminisce about their kid’s childhood, referring to them as, “my boy,” or “my little girl,” or even “my baby.” They talk about past camping trips, joyful holidays, family trips, etc. They sigh and say “We were so close.” I understand, I really do. But it does no good to hold on with white knuckles to memories that are over and done. The kids are grown, living their lives, without us parents and grandparents. We are holding on too desperately, too stubbornly. It’s wonderful to have had such great times with our kids when they were still with us, but now let’s embrace the present moment. Cherish the memories, lovingly and gratefully, and stop waiting for our kids to have an epiphany and take responsibility for their actions. Relax and float with the current in the ever-changing river of life.

The holidays are always tough for estranged parents and grandparents. This year, after so many months of being alone, socially isolated and concerned for our health, we have one heck of a challenge. Personally, I will be alone on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have no family nearby but I do have friends who have kindly invited me to join them. I have politely declined as I’m concerned about the virus (I have asthma), but most of all I just don’t have the heart for it. 

Instead of filling my stomach with delicious holiday fare, I will warm myself by drinking from my own cup, which overflows with grace, love, and goodness. I will nourish my soul with the presence of my dog, my lake, my sky, my clouds, my many feathered friends. I will play music, walk the beach and delight in the conversations of seagulls. I will draw deep breaths and feel the salt air expanding my lungs and soothing my socially-distanced heart.

6 thoughts on “Holidays in the Time of Pandemic”

  • I had tried and gave away a book “Cry No More”…which is about estrangement, exercises to do..and now also a workbook to do along with the book..That book just didnt help me much. I wasnt wanting to do the exercises..just get the gist of the help me deal with being estranged by not 1 adult son, but all 3 of them..aided and abetted by an abusive ex husband..20+ years now.. My contact with any of them, is hit or miss…
    Recently, though, by chance, I came across this book Banished..having read Cry No More and followed several webpages on estrangement..I gave this book a try…Its
    The most helpful book Ive found…I recommend this to ANYONE who is facing estrangement/alienation by grown children/grandkids..and even other family members. I could write a book on this..But Nancy’s book is a welcome addition to my library.

    • Thanks for writing, Vanessa. I’m so sorry to hear of your hit and miss estrangement and alienation. I’m happy to hear that my book, “Banished – A Grandmother Alone” was helpful to you. You certainly understand long term estrangement which is, as you know, very challenging. I hope you’ll say hello from time to time and let me know how you’re doing. Stay well and grounded during these difficult times.

  • You’re not alone, Kate. Know this: You did your best as a mother, the best you knew how at that time. Please don’t beat yourself up and paint yourself as a bad parent. We’ve ALL made mistakes. because we didn’t know how to do things better. The abandonment and abuse many of us have received from our adult children is unconscionable and just plain wrong. For now, please just concentrate on your own life, your own healing and be kind to yourself.

  • Thank you, your words even though brutally honest to my existence in this world, knowing I am not the only one who lives this way. I always thought I was the only one, I must be the worst parent that my only child and grandchild never contact me that alone response to my ongoing contacts. Knowing there are others out there gives me some comfort that I cannot be that bad and maybe just maybe the children are just as fault.

    • Just went through an agonized weekend. First my birthday, then a day later it’s my grandson’s birthday. Estranged grandson.

      I forced myself to assemble a card, some trinkets, a brief letter. I had so many unsaid, unwritten things to tell him. Finally I decided that life is too short to string my misery out one more day and I delivered the stuff a day early to their house.

      Well, what do you know. My son was alone working on landscaping in his front yard. He couldn’t avoid me, the evil, unwanted one. So we talked for about 45 minutes (the first time since a phone call in March). I listened and listening between the lines.

      Then wife and my grandkids pulled in to the driveway. I was shocked at my good fortune. I was shocked—my grandson’s hair had changed color and he grew a foot taller in two years since a brief two-hour visit, Christmas 2018. I talked to my granddaughter and she gave me website where I can look at her art. This is the first time I have access beyond the reach of her parents. She is still carrying the stuffed animal I gave her five years ago.

      I even engaged my daughter-in-law in a little coping- with-covid conversation. It was fun but then I really had to pee, not to mention the gas pains from the stress of the sudden access to everyone.

      I hope they learned something. But I think not.I know from experience that this is just a one-off. A meaningless freak accident of communication; they had let their guard down.

      Ah, being a parent is like being an institution; you are never a person. You’re something to rail at for all the injustices in life; they are all your fault, no?

      But as I drove home, I felt whole. That indescribable yet very quiet feeling, that parts of myself had come back and reassembled within me, from the ether.

      How very sad not to be whole. I am bathing in it now, but it won’t last. It’s another manifestation of magical thinking. I am in the midst of it.

      If I had moved away like I plan to do, this would not have occurred, although it is very unlikely that happenstance and serendipity will shine on my like this again.

      Ahh, I wish for all of you, of all of us, a reconciliation, that they become mentally more healthy and give us a break. A little less cruelty. Recognizing us as people, just trying to do our best.

      I am studying paleo cultures. What my son and his wife have done—keeping my grandchildren away from me, I’m sure is a taboo in many cultures and they would incur a very harsh punishment for the breaking of a very fundamental and supremely important human connection. It is unconscionable.

      I will be alone on Thanksgiving and Christmas except for my wild crows and all my trees. I will be expressing my thanks to Nancy for who she is and what she feels and how she writes and so generously provides this forum for us.

      I will be thinking of all of us every day from now on hoping that we find peace, joy, and calm fortitude to carry on with what we know is important to us.

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