2020: The Year We Lost Our Normal Easter

Two of the most important times in the calendar year for family connection are often Christmas and Easter. In Australia Easter is a four-day weekend every year and – given our mild climate and stunning beaches and natural habitat – many families would usually be heading off very soon to meet loved ones outside and enjoy some quality, ‘unplugged’ connection time. In fact, Easter is normally the most popular camping holiday time in Australia.

This year, however, all that has been thrown on its end by COVID-19 and we can’t go camping or visit family we don’t live with.

When my four sons were younger, Easter was always spent hanging out with cousins or at our favourite surfing campsite – surrounded by people we knew.

When these gatherings occurred, human linkages, and bondedness were made a little bit stronger every time. Whether it was around the campfire with the obligatory marshmallows, or whether it was spent with afternoons at the beach or fishing –  just enjoying lingering board games or card games with people we really valued and love.

I am 65 years old and this will be the first Easter in my entire life that I won’t spend with my close family.

It will just be my good bloke Steve and my dog Hugo Walter and even though I love them both, I know I’m going to have times where the tears will flow because the chaotic, food-filled, fun-filled Easter that I love, has been lost for this year. It is especially painful this year because we have a new grandchild – and there is something about family babies that tugs our heartstrings especially hard. Yes of course we’ll be able to see him on the screen however I’m unable to hold him, gaze endlessly into his divine face and, worst of all, I am unable to smell him! No chocolate Easter egg is going to make up for that for that.

The older grandkids usually have the most fabulous time catching up –cousin catch ups are a big thing in our family – and the Sunday Easter egg hunt has definitely been a joyful and magical experience for generations. Yes of course there is the odd meltdown over who gets the most eggs and I will miss the very loud squeals of delight in the wee hours of the morning when Nanny gets to have the early risers to herself.

My tears and your tears that you may shed over the lost Easter are real and valid because we always grieve the things we lose which we love. Hopefully we are only going to lose one Easter to this damn awful virus and please tell your kids this.

This is not our normal Easter, so we now need to make it a one-off, different Easter that our kids can still look back on with fondness.

Due to the stress and anxiety children and parents are feeling at this time, I want to suggest that over this Easter weekend you plan more lightness, more laughter and more fun. The human brain anchors memories when there is a heightened emotion present and so big people need to work at ways to create positive neurochemicals as often as possible.

Please wear bunny ears all weekend, or perhaps dad might don one of the kids’ superhero capes and add a tiara? If you have little ones doing sticker play, leave the stickers on. I once went to Bunnings with my oldest granddaughter with a large unicorn sticker on my forehead that I had forgotten about. I did get a few strange looks … but my granddaughter loved me wearing her sticker out in public!

If you haven’t already sent some cards, gifts or messages of love via snail mail, you can still send a digital version. Remember your kids can also make special pictures and messages of Easter goodness for neighbours and those who work in our supermarkets and health services.

Get them to spread the gratitude and love, and they will notice a lift in their own spirit.

It was fabulous to see teddy bears in the windows recently and now maybe we could draw Easter eggs or bunny ears in our windows, wishing everyone a happy Easter. Footpath chalk work has been also a big hit in recent days, so maybe if your kids haven’t done that yet put that on the list as well.

Your older children could be given the mission to go through all the family photos on your computer or in the cloud, of previous Easters, gathering all the best pics. They could then create a slideshow or movie of Easters gone by that could be shared digitally and watched as many times as the kids need to remember how much fun they had before.

A follow-up to this is to have your kids plan Easter 2021 – in reasonable detail, day by day. This forward planning is really helpful to move minds from a negative bias of what we have missed, to a positive bias of what we have to look forward to. Seriously if kids can combine this on a large poster with pictures and images, it can become a vision board of hope and optimism!

Maybe have a PJ day where you stay in those pyjamas all day. Have a long lingering breakfast with pancakes, ice cream and of course bananas to keep it healthy. Play long games of Monopoly, Yahtzee, Uno, Snakes and Ladders, and do as many puzzles as you can. There is no hurry anymore.

How often have we stopped our children watching more than one movie in a day because we know about healthy boundaries – right? Well plan the movie marathon maybe after lunch or dinner. Snuggle up on the couch, with popcorn.

Being completely present without the need to hurry or rush can be an amazing gift we can give our kids this Easter.

Given that many of us can sleep in this long weekend, maybe a night time movie marathon would work best. Imagine your children gradually falling asleep all around you while you watch Shrek or The Invincibles –or maybe Frozen 2? Of course, once you move them all into bed, it’s time for a grown-up movie and the hidden chocolate supply to come out – bliss!

Create one celebratory meal with the children’s help to set up a special table and hopefully help you prepare the meal. Perhaps, then have a Zoom/Skype/Facetime party with family members wherever they are also eating at the same time. Seriously this can really help fill our aching hearts. I had a Zoom birthday party a couple of weeks ago and I could see all my family, my grandchildren and even the family dogs. It still had the same antics, my sons doing the usual teasing of each other, the grandies doing and making fighting noises, and there was lots of laughter.

Of course you can create those digital connections as often as possible over the Easter weekend – it’s just great to think that we still can have one fabulous meal together. The serious plus for the grandparents, is there may be less cooking and less cleaning up and that’s a win!

Your Easter egg hunt might now happen inside your unit, inside your backyard or even in your bedroom cupboards – if this is something that is a part of your normal Easter, ensure it happens again.

Many families of faith for whom attending church services is a part of their family and faith rituals may find this Easter particularly challenging. Many churches and cathedrals will be streaming their Easter services and I encourage you to join in and, in particular, sing those hymns loudly in your lounge room.

We know that singing lifts the human spirit and this can give you a sense of connection with other parishioners in other places. If you have kids who have musical ability, they can certainly be challenged to give you a performance of your favourite Easter hymns while you sit back and enjoy a cuppa.

So if you can, please embrace this Easter as a time to create new memories that matter. All is not lost. Please do not let this horrible virus steal away the true spirit of the Easter weekend – that simply won’t be fair for our children and extended families who are already missing so many things. And maybe this Easter we can give ourselves permission to eat a tiny bit more chocolate than we normally would. Let’s do this all  while embracing the hidden gift of having a less hurried and less stressed Easter weekend.

Keep this mantra in your mind – laugh more, linger longer and love more deeply.