Loss of Celebrations

Loss of Rites and Rituals

Under any circumstances, the cancellation of a celebration, like a wedding, is disappointing.  In the era of COVID-19, cancellations of celebrations are coming in droves, and sometimes it seems frivolous to be upset that our moment in the sun, a wedding, graduation and the hoopla around them are cancelled.  

 

But these cancellations are a significant loss. And we need to acknowledge that.

 

We’re not just being deprived of the wedding cake. When a wedding is cancelled or postponed indefinitely, we lose the opportunity to acknowledge the relationships that paved the way toward the milestones. This is  more important than the loss of the event itself.

 

The love between two people getting married didn’t spring into life with a first date and an apple martini.  The ability to love began the moment that couple was  born, when their parents first held them and started a lifelong journey of nurture and support.

 

That’s why wedding rituals like a bride dancing with her father hold so much significance.  They say, “This is how I got to this moment. This father enabled me to love deeply. He devoted years of his life to me. Now I can have a marriage of my own.”

 

That dance is one of hundreds of rituals that show the circle of family around every individual and around every success.

 

When a graduation is cancelled there is still a diploma, but the parents lose the chance to bask in the pride of seeing their child's accomplishment.  The photo of the parents and the child in a cap and gown captures much more than a single moment. It’s about parents and other family sticking with children through all the ups and downs, the successes and the failures.

 

People wait lifetimes to see their children marry or graduate.  And that loss feels disorienting: “What happened?”

 

The truth is that these moments as we pictured them are lost.  We lose the fantasy of what a day would have been like.  But parents can still take joy in a marriage and feel pride on a graduation day.

 

We realize what really matters in the midst of adversity.  It’s not the dress. It’s the family.  It’s not the graduation gift.  It’s the grandmother who spent hours reading to her grandkids and giving them a lifetime love of books. It’s the father who made sure to be at every school play.  It’s the mother who stayed up until midnight finishing her own work so that she could leave the office on time to help with homework and make dinner.

 

Still, there are feelings of letdown and loss when a celebration is cancelled.  One way to rebalance is through mindful breathing. It gives us a means to feel centered and calm instead of upset and anxious. We have the power to choose to meet disappointment with equilibrium and acceptance. That way we can stay strong for ourselves and continue to support the people we love. And we can regain a sense of control that even though significant events can be disrupted, we don’t need to carry that feeling of disruption into ourselves.

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© 2020 Mindy Utay, JD, LCSW