By Sherrie Lanita Bethea, MSSW
Celebrations! Who doesn’t love them! Weddings, birthdays, graduations, and more! They are the perfect time to acknowledge accomplishments, special occasions, and passage through various stages of life! They give us reasons to come together as family and friends, often in a very unique and festive way! Sometimes we pull out all the stops, and throw HUGE events; including dinner, dancing, and wearing our finest outfits!
Recognizing the various personalities, styles, and preferences of our family and friends, there are times when we choose to keep the celebrations small, and only for those closest to us. However we choose to celebrate, one common denominator exists. The excitement, the love, and the freedom to rejoice with our loved ones, all mean so much because we are surrounded by people who are important to us! They are the ones who give our lives meaning! Celebrating is always special when they are there to share it with us!
Enter the pandemic! Church weddings, children’s parties at Chuck-E Cheese, high school and college graduations, and family reunion picnics have all come to a screeching halt. They have been replaced by drive-through parties, gift ‘drop-offs’, and Zoom events. Couples are getting married and live-streaming their weddings. Other couples have their ceremonies performed on the front lawn, with a small number of invited friends and family in attendance - at a safe distance of course. Some of the guests enjoy the nuptials from the comfort of their car.
Many states have imposed new guidelines for social and holiday gatherings. Celebrations and events that were once easy to plan and organize, are now complicated by the need to comply with these guidelines. Parties, weddings, and other major events scheduled prior to the pandemic are now under a magnifying glass! Families must now make the following considerations before moving forward with their events:
· Change the guest list. How will they decide who to remove from the list? How will they deal with hurt feelings; or with those who may feel offended enough to end the relationship?
· Alter the event. –
(a) Change the venue or location. (
b) Select a new date.
(c) Change the format : buffet, plated meal, other? Eliminate food altogether?
(d) Beverages and hors’doeuvres, only?
· Postpone or cancel the event until a later date.
My birthday is July 4th. Two years ago, I celebrated a milestone with a very large, festive party. I treasure the memory of having my family and friends come together to celebrate with me. Had this pandemic occurred, it would not have been possible! There are so many people who now find themselves in this situation! For many of them, their event is bigger than a birthday party. It is their wedding day, graduation dinner, or family reunion. These are once-in-a-lifetime occasions that are not easily rescheduled or repeated. Sadly, postponing or cancelling events and celebrations may also mean that a special loved one may pass away before the event can be rescheduled; especially if the person is currently ill.
What we now know as our ‘new normal’ has forced us to move our formal celebrations to the ‘back of the bus’. We must accept the fact that our way of recognizing special occasions and entertaining has been altered. For the preservation of safety, physical health, mental and emotional well-being, we must now make the necessary adjustments to keep it intact.
So where does this leave caregivers?
· How does all of this effect the person who can’t leave home to go to a venue that is too far away from their loved one? If they can’t find someone to stay with their loved one long enough for them to attend the event, they will probably have to stay at home.
· What if participating in a Zoom event is too disruptive to their routine? They would love to engage in the event, and would thoroughly enjoy it; but their loved one “CAN’T STAND ALL OF THAT RACKET!” He or she becomes agitated and disagreeable; destroying the enjoyment for the caregiver.
· What if they are invited to an event; but have been asked not to bring the loved one they are caring for?
(a) The caregiver may feel hurt, angry, or offended by this request, and choose not to attend.
(b) The caregiver may want to bring the loved one; but hesitate to ask, afraid the
request will be denied.
Now that we must adhere to new ways to celebrate special times, enjoy life, and remain safe; these are only a few of the possible situations that caregivers may face. As difficult as the considerations may be, people who have the responsibility of managing the day-to-day safety, care, and well-being of another person may find them emotionally confining.
So, just what DOES love have to do with it? There are ways caregivers can participate without feeling pressured to choose between their responsibilities to their loved one, and their desire to enjoy a wonderful, exciting part of life!
1. Get as much notice about the event, in advance, as possible. This allows plenty of time to arrange a sitter for your loved one, if needed. This also allows you to make appropriate adjustments in their schedule for meals, medications, and other time-sensitive needs.
2. Find out if your loved one is welcome. Whether or not you choose to bring them with you, this information will help determine your ability to attend the event. You will need to prepare meals, medication, and arrange to bring supplies or equipment (walker, cane, incontinent supplies, other). If your loved one’s impairment is not physical, you may need to bring along their favorite books, puzzles, or other items they enjoy.
(Be prepared to leave early if it becomes necessary. Communicate this to your host prior to the event. Remember, you do not owe anyone an explanation. You always have the right to privacy.)
3. Make yourself as comfortable as possible. If you are participating in a Zoom event, do not feel obligated to ‘be seen’. You are always free to participate without the camera on. Believe me, there will be others who choose to do the same! If you want to participate with your camera on, remember, you can also turn it off at any time. You can still interact; talk, laugh, and thoroughly enjoy yourself. You will have the privacy of being present as a caregiver, without the concern of others seeing what is happening during the session.
4. Drive-by events and ‘drop-off’ gift parties are great! .You may think of them as the perfect opportunity to take your loved one out for a ride! You could be right! Just remember that these events can become extremely LOUD! All of those horns honking, people yelling out of their car windows; even motorcycles ‘revving up’! It may be too much – or too frightening – for your loved one!
If not, these can be wonderful times for the two of you to spend some fun time together!
5. Whatever works for you and your loved one, enjoy yourselves! Only you know what kind of event, and what circumstance, will be the most comfortable for the two of you. This includes who will be attending. Unfortunately, not everyone can or will relate well to your caregiving situation. Although they mean no harm, there are people who do not relate well to what they don’t understand. Hold them harmless; but always protect your loved one from any kind of harm or shame.
Physical pain isn’t the only kind of pain that disturbs caregivers and their loved ones.
Celebrations should always be a part of life. God called us to celebrate. We celebrate with our family and friends; and we take care of those we love when they are in need. I believe the two go hand-in-hand. What could be a better reason to celebrate than that!
1. God made us; we are His! That’s a reason to celebrate! (Psalm 100:1-3, NKJV)
2. God has a plan, and a reason for everything! Even though we struggle, and feel pain, He created us to laugh, dance, and celebrate! (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 NKJV)
3. When you feel down, your spirit is low, and you see no reason to celebrate; always remember. Jesus came to us in what seemed to be the worst of circumstances; but the celebration began with His birth, and it will never end! (Luke 2:1-20, NKJV).
4. Celebration styles will vary. The new normal will force us to make choices that may seem out-of-the-ordinary. If you choose to participate, do so only if you will be respectful of the choice your host has made. (I Peter 4:9).
5. If you are struggling during this time of crisis, and your heart is in a low place; it may be difficult for you to adjust to the new way of celebrating special occasions with your loved ones. Seek the support and advice of someone you love and trust. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured to participate if you do not wish to. You may need time to adjust.
God will help you. He understands; and He will return to you the joy you seek!
‘Rejoice in the Lord always, Again I say, rejoice!’ (NKJV, Philippians 4:4).