As the world has come to grips with the reality of living life in the era of COVID-19, we’ve also had to become accustomed to many of our favorite events being canceled.
While it’s always a little disappointing to miss out on an event you may have been looking forward to for a long time, it can be downright devastating for some. We talked to Debbie Hillard, PsyD., Manager of the Employee Assistance Program at Texas Health Resources, to discuss how to best cope with the loss of a big event, celebration or life moment, and how to quell any anxiety about the fate of future events.
Acknowledge the Disappointment
You’ve heard it time and time again — these are unprecedented times. So if you’re finding yourself upset about a canceled event or celebration, understand that these are normal reactions to a very abnormal situation, Hillard says. It’s important to acknowledge the disappointment instead of suppressing it, whether it’s you or someone else feeling upset.
“My daughter and her cheer squad had been working hard all year to hopefully compete at Disney this spring, so when the season was canceled, that was a big hit for her and her friends,” Hillard says. “But to be honest, it was a hit for me as well. The parents get just as invested as the kids. Talk through it and acknowledge the sadness. Just be honest and direct, with yourself, your child or anyone else who is feeling down. Put it out there and open up about how you’re feeling, and normalize it.”
Hillard says once you acknowledge the disappointment, the next step is trying to think about how you can still make that day special, whether that means moving forward with your plans with social distancing in mind, celebrating virtually, throwing a drive-by parade, or whatever comes to mind.
“You need to weigh the odds against what you’d like and what’s best for your guests’ health and safety. Therefore, it may look different for locals versus family or friends flying in,” she says. “If you decide to move forward, just be creative and step out the box, seeing it in a different lens or remembering the meaning of the events. ‘Should’ and ‘must’ are trap words; think outside of that, given our circumstance, and how we can still make this work.”
San Antonio couple Jaimee and Jeremy know all too well the disappointment that comes with a big event being canceled due to the pandemic; the couple was set to be married April 4th in front of all of their friends and family members, with a big celebration afterward.
“We had been dating for four years when he popped the question and were just SO excited to finally get married,” Jaimee says. “Unfortunately the coronavirus had some plans of its own. We decided for everyone’s safety, we would have to make the tough decision to postpone our wedding reception. It was absolutely devastating.”
But the couple decided to go forward with the wedding, opting to only include immediate family members, and they made sure to follow all social distancing rules.
“It turned out to be such a beautiful day and we are so happy to have gotten married,” Jaimee says.
While their wedding, reception and honeymoon all looked much different than they had originally planned, the couple says the situation ultimately brought them closer and reminded them of why they were getting married in the first place.
“This situation, as hard as it has been, has definitely affected our relationship positively,” Jaimee says. “We have grown closer in such a short amount of time, just going through such a hard decision and event together. Jeremy is my best friend and now I truly know he is who I am meant to be with forever.”
Take Things One Day at a Time
While you may have already experienced an event being canceled so far, what if you have something coming up later this year? Keep in mind that you don’t have to make a decision right now in most cases.
“When there is something big like this, we have to take it one day at a time. Making a decision now or tomorrow, even next week, probably won’t make a big difference,” Hillard explains.
If you have a big event scheduled for later this year, Hillard suggests the following:
- Let things play out and don’t jump the gun – Set a date for when you feel like it will be absolutely necessary to make a decision to cancel, then ride it out. If you get to that date and things haven’t changed, then it’ll be time to make a decision.
- Take back a sense of control – Talk through options with family and friends and any vendors that may be involved. The unique aspect of this pandemic is that everyone is in the same boat experiencing the same thing, so most people, even vendors, are willing to work with you.
- Try to stay optimistic – Stay optimistic and manage those worries. We have to accept that we can’t control what is happening but we can control how we feel and respond.
- Keep talking about it – Check in with yourself and those involved and see where their emotions are regarding the situation. Although it may be hard, consistently talking about it, working through emotions, can help us make sense of what is going on and be at peace with it.
Try Not to Predict the Future
If you have a school-aged child, you may already be fielding questions and concerns on what the fall will look like for them, especially if you have a soon-to-be college freshman on your hands. Hillard says that right now, the schools themselves are having a hard time trying to predict what the school year will look like in the fall, much less everyone else.
“There is no reason to start foreshadowing when we don’t know,” she adds. “Sometimes we just need to be okay with the unknown, knowing that it’s truly an unknown (no one person has the answer), then following that with patience and understanding that everyone is doing their best to get back to normal and to put the pieces together.”
While the future is unknown, the steps you take each day can contribute to a safer tomorrow for yourself and the world around you. Remember, we are all in this together.
If you are in need of additional support or professional assistance, please take a look at the following resources.