I’ll Be Home for Christmas but Only in Spirit - Separated from Family in 2020

Remember all those months ago BC (before Coronavirus), when we were raising a toast to welcome in 2020 and singing Auld Lang Syne? Rolling down the hill from Christmas 2019, I didn’t quite expect the uphill to mid-year to be quite so steep. And no one could have predicted that the roll back down the hill from mid-year to a new Christmas would be blocked. Road closed. No one beyond this point. But here we are, atop a hill with no view to speak of, and the knowledge that a family Christmas in 2020 is not on the horizon. We’ve got some work to do to reach acceptance on this one.

Christmas is a powerful time of year for many of us. It symbolises a time of gathering with loved ones. It’s such a no-brainer, “of course we’ll be with family for Christmas, wherever they are”, that we don’t even question what our plans might be each December. It’s elementary! So, to have that certainty erased is a lot to get your head around. Many of us have been able to get through the last few months of separation by consoling ourselves with the idea that we would be reunited with family in December. Even if you had no plans to see family over the last few months, getting your head around the idea that you will not be able to have family over or leave Singapore for a family Christmas back home is an uncomfortable process. For many of us, the thought of being together over Christmas, was that light at the end of the tunnel. Now that light has all but been extinguished and the goalposts have moved again, there is more mental gymnastics to go through.

If you are a Singaporean citizen or Permanent Resident there may be some wiggle room in your travel plans. But for many of us here who have family that live, work or study in other countries, it is not looking like we will be reunited for Christmas this year. I myself lost my father to Covid-19 during this period recently. Not being able to go home, say goodbye, attend the funeral and most importantly support my mother was difficult enough. But to know that the separation will mean that we are not together even at Christmas is something I need to figure out how to approach in my mind. And I think of those parents that have children studying abroad. There are some tough emotional times ahead indeed. Everyone has been caught off guard with countries declaring lockdowns and travel restrictions to contain Covid-19.

And I’m here to say, I have no answers to all of this. But when I started this blog series the intention was not to provide solutions, but to provide space to raise the things we think about. So that we might take comfort in one another, knowing that someone else might be going through the same things that we are. So, on that note, my advice is simple:

  1. Be kind with each other
  2. Ask after each other both those near and especially those far
  3. Extend an invitation
  4. Listen
  5. Get your overseas parents, grandparents, and elderly family members on Zoom, Facetime, WhatsApp video and keep in touch. Let them be a part of your lives. You don’t need to have a formal conversation. They would love to “be with you” and see what is going on whilst you are in the supermarket via video.

Nevermore so has it been true that we’re all in this together. So let’s pull together and be the family that we don’t have near.

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