Contributed by Libby Kennard, MA Program Coordinator
November, 2020. During the past year, people have felt disoriented by the quarantine with one day running into the next. I have heard some compare every day to a Saturday or to a rainy day with nowhere to go. Missing dinners with friends, going to the gym, attending worship services, birthdays, graduations, and yes, funerals, separate us from our family and our community. Our rituals anchor us to place. They bond us together marking the passage of life, the passage of time.
A ritual is simply an act or series of acts done in a particular situation and in the same way each time. (Merriam-Webster’s definition). Whether it is your own personal daily ritual, a family tradition or a cultural ritual, these repeated patterns of behavior serve an important purpose. Humans are social beings and have always established customs to bond people together. Rituals help us regulate our emotions and give us a sense of control partly because they are predictable. We come together for milestones, for hardships and for camaraderie. When there is a baby on the way, we bring gifts and play silly games. When football season starts, fans have their gatherings whether it is at someone’s home, a sports pub or at the stadium. When things are uncertain, rituals provide comfort. When someone is sick, we show up with soup. When people are anxious they turn to rituals even more for solace but the pandemic hampers our ability to do so. Without these common rituals, it is no wonder we feel ill at ease.
Creating New Rituals
It is more important now as we face a new year with continued challenges that we modify how we participate with each other or create new rituals. We have stopped shaking hands and hugging replacing it with non-contact greetings that convey the same meaning. A handshake indicates an agreement of trust. A hug says you care. While I like the sacredness of placing my hands in prayer position or across my heart with a respectful nod, most of the time, I find myself doing a quick head bob while jerking my extended hand back and establishing my 6ft distance. It is awkward. Learning a new way of behaving takes a while.
It has been inspiring to see how people have reached out to their neighbors by placing teddy bears in windows, or stepping onto balconies to sing or applaud the healthcare workers. Families report cooking together and eating shared meals more so than before with our busy lives. Car parades are safe ways to honor recent graduates or milestone birthdays. Thank goodness for our technology. Zoom, FaceTime and other gadgets create an ‘almost like being there’ experience. It allows us to have virtual worship services, games nights and even memorial services.
Consider creating your own personal rituals. It brings a sense of calm in an otherwise chaotic time. For me, that is making a cup of tea. It could be lighting a candle, leaving an offering, saying a blessing, writing a letter. Let us schedule some dates with friends and family to break bread together, share a meal, reminisce, or play a game. It is vital we stay connected and support one another.
How to Hug Safely During Covid-19 (from Brain and Life Magazine)
Before you get close, keep these strategies in mind, suggests Matthew Miller, PhD, associate professor at the McMaster Institute for infectious Disease Research.
- WEAR MASKS. Both you and whomever you hug should wear masks that cover the nose and the mouth.
- KEEP IT SHORT. A hug should last no more than 10 seconds.
- TURN AWAY. Point your faces in opposite directions to avoid breathing on each other. If you hug children, have them hug you around the waist, with their head turned away.
- GET CREATIVE. “Try hugging people from behind so you’re not breathing in each other’s faces,” says Dr. Miller. You can even kiss them on their head while standing behind them.
- STAY DRY-EYED. Masks work only when they are dry. If you’re tearful, it’s better to save the hug for another time.