Covid-19 summer: It hit me hard when I realised the holiday wasn’t going to happen

Cancelled breaks are a disappointment, but there’s still a way for families to compensate

You can still have a great summer despite the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: iStock

You can still have a great summer despite the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: iStock

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Everyone has been affected by coronavirus in one way or other. Some people have had their lives turned upside down with the loss of a loved one; others have succumbed to the virus and, thankfully, managed to beat it; while the vast majority have had their daily lives put on hold, their livelihoods threatened and their freedom curtailed.

And although the world is beginning to get back on its feet with restrictions cautiously being lifted, many summer plans have been scuppered and dreams shelved.

Like millions of others, I was due to be on holiday this week. The trip had been planned and booked at the beginning of the year and the whole family was looking forward to it. And to rub salt in the wound, my brother who lives in northwest America was due to join us with his family.

Because of the geographical distance between us and the logistics of flying either group of five across an ocean and a large land mass, family get-togethers are few and far between and it has been more than five years since we have seen each other.

Needless to say, we were all looking forward to it and are bitterly disappointed.

But we are not alone – families all over the world were due to spend happy times together over the coming months and many are feeling more than a little down about being unable to do so.

When I realised the holiday was not going to happen, it hit me hard

Massage therapist Keri Denney had planned a trip to Texas for her aunt’s 80th birthday celebration, where an extended group of family members were due to convene from all corners of the globe.

“Of course I want everyone to be safe and healthy, but I’m really sad that I can’t see my family this year as I was looking to it so much,” she says.

“I love to travel but I know that staying home is what is needed right now.”

Hairdresser Maire O’Connor is also aware of the reason why she had to cancel her holiday, but says she is finding it very difficult to come to terms with things.

“I was due to go to Italy with my two friends this month and our flights were cancelled, so we had no choice but to stay at home,” she says. “I had really been looking forward to the trip as we hadn’t been away together before and all really needed the break, particularly after the last few months of lockdown.

“My work has been non-existent since March and I was feeling really low, very anxious and if I’m honest, bordering on depressed, so when I realised the holiday was not going to happen, it hit me hard.

“ Logically I know the reasons why I can’t travel, but it didn’t stop me from feeling really upset about it and even right now, I’m struggling to have any enthusiasm about anything, as the possibility of another trip abroad doesn’t look too promising either.”

Psychotherapist Stella O’Malley says O’Connor is not alone in her low mood.

“The lockdown has been very hard on some, and I have heard many reports of feelings of extreme loneliness and tearfulness,” she says.

“Some people are avoiding others as they have become habituated to being alone and can’t quite face up to joining the world again – everything feels like too much effort and they feel anxious.

It’ll be a slower summer with a lot less going on but, with the right attitude, it could be a richer experience

“So, it can be helpful to gently lure people out of a dysfunctional comfort zone with mild activities, such as a local walk, rather than a more ambitious day out. Reflective conversation that gives space to how worrisome and difficult these past few months have been can also be beneficial. Also, meeting a person for an outdoor coffee in the local park can be fruitful, as this won’t be stressful and nature can be very soothing.”

The Dublin-based expert says we should use this time to try to become more appreciative of the simpler things in life.

“I can fully empathise with families who feel disappointed by seeing their lovely holiday plans go down the tubes because of Covid-19 and yet, there is a wider perspective that can be gleaned from this,” she says.

“Every other year, one child is doing camp while another is off with friends, but this year the family is stuck together and, with that, there is an opportunity for bonding that will probably never come again, and can be much longer-lasting than the more superficial bonding which happens on holidays.

“It’ll be a slower summer with a lot less going on but, with the right attitude, it could be a richer experience and parents could consider that their children are accessing a ‘summer of the 1980s’ with all the lengthy, stress-free, languid feelings that go with that.

“This summer won’t involve rushing to get in the car; nor will there be complicated packing or unpacking; there won’t be long queues to get into activities and the stress that goes with that – instead we could take advantage of the life-long lesson which is to learn how to make our own fun in life.”

Getting in touch with contentment helps us to feel better

Wexford psychologist Peadar Maxwell agrees and says we should do our best to try to focus on the good things in our lives.

“So many of us are lucky to have good health, friends, family and a job,” he says. “Others are bereaved, have been unwell or are extremely anxious about a loved one becoming unwell or have lost their income. So being grateful for what we have and what is good in our lives is definitely called for during a health emergency, and getting in touch with contentment helps us to feel better and to behave in a more positive way.

“However, we still have a right to feel disappointment and share sad feelings with others provided we are sensitive to their experiences. There are so many layers of loss in the Covid era from sports, to recitals, travel, celebrations and anniversaries. Weddings have been cancelled and special milestones not marked in the way that was planned. The loss of the freedom to travel is a loss too and an individual or family has a right to be sad or disappointed about that. But be careful to not to accidentally outdo someone else’s loss either – listen to their sadness and then think about when to share your own.”

Maxwell says while everyone’s disappointment levels will be different, we should all try to make some alternative plans.

“As soon as is possible, make a plan to do something,” he advises. “If it’s possible and within guidelines, try to plan something fun, restful or just a change from the regular routine. Because if it’s not practical to go away on holiday, we have to be sensible and safe and find joy in what is available to us. Keeping hope is important – as things will get better.”

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