Sensitivity, Not Guilt, is Key: Celebrating Winter Holidays Does Not Dishonor Covid-19 Victims or Their Families

Joel Eisenberg

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As of today I have lost four longtime friends and associates to Covid-19. My immediate and extended families are, thankfully, safe for now. We all wear masks and follow social distance guidelines.

Yesterday afternoon, I made a quick trek to a local shop. I entered and no one was behind the counter. I waited, and one of the owners exited from a back room without a mask.

"No mask?" I asked. I've known the guy for close to five years; this was surprising to me.

"Not anymore."

"You're telling me you don't wear masks here, anymore ... at all?"

"We don't require them for the customers anymore either."

"Well, you just lost one, bro."

He looked at me as I was about to turn, and added, "People are getting sick wearing masks. They're getting sick without wearing masks. We decided to leave it up to our customers."

I left, finding the explanation unacceptable. The store is in the Los Angeles area, the U.S. location presently considered the "epicenter" of Covid cases and deaths. The day before, I excoriated actor Kirk Cameron for similar irresponsibility holding a maskless caroling event in nearby area.

I understand the "civil liberties" argument though I vehemently disagree with it. We all hold the same civil liberties, but if I can save a life by doing something as simple as wearing a mask, I will do so.

Four friends of mine lost their lives weeks after encountering people without masks. I mourn each and every one.

Walk a mile in my shoes. If you have lost no one to now, I pray that fortune will remain.

***

The intent of this article has nothing to do with religion, or politics, to be clear. It has to do with some associates and other friends of mine who have expressed guilt over celebrating the holidays this year.

Each has recovered from Covid-19.

Upon digging a bit, in each instance their guilt proved something deeper: These individuals felt guilty, though grateful, to have survived.

***

I was curious about this and asked on one of my social media accounts if anyone who has 'not' suffered from Covid feels guilty about celebrating this year's winter holidays.

The response ran close to 50-50, all on non-partisan grounds. Some indeed felt they would be doing an injustice to grieving families if they celebrated, considering over 320,000 deceased from the virus at the time of the post. Others expressed they simply did not think about it.

"Life is for the living," said one. "Why should I feel any guilt at all?"

"Not something I bother myself with but since you asked, you should ask yourself if the deceased would want the rest of us to stop living our lives," said another.

But the one that resonated with me most: "Who knows what will happen tomorrow? We need to appreciate today as we may never again see another sunrise."

That one stuck.

***

There is no right or wrong answer regarding the question of guilt and the holidays in 2020. Nor is there a right or wrong answer regarding the conflict of guilt vs. celebrating the promise of a new year.

I will offer an opinion, which is the best I can do: We have no need to feel guilty. About any of it.

We are not responsible for the outbreak of Covid-19. We are, however, in part responsible for its spread. If I personally went out maskless and, for example, inadvertently coughed or sneezed on someone, and they passed away shortly thereafter ... I'd be guilt-ridden.

For the record, one of my four friends passed from coming into contact with a maskless individual who thought he had the flu.

My friend was coughed upon. My example is not far-fetched.

But returning to the question of guilt, again, save for the event of irresponsibility or intention, we can mourn the deceased and even empathize with the victims' families as the deaths were not our fault.

Guilt is unnecessary. Sympathy and empathy are important.

  • Visit social media pages devoted to families of Covid victims. Share notes of sympathy and kindness.
  • Write an article online and share your thoughts with the families.
  • Post on your page remembrances of decedents you know, and perhaps those about whom you have read online or have heard of.
  • Share stories of families and decedents on your personal social media page.
  • In the spirit of the holidays, donate money or items to grieving families if you know who they are or are, or if you are moved by stories of strangers, and can afford to do so.
  • If you see a GoFundMe account online and you cannot afford to give, consider sharing the page on your social media.
  • Speak to friends and family about what you can do to help other families who have lost members.
  • Record personal videos to share online.
  • If one of your social media contacts shares posts about their own battles with Covid, send them words of support. You may be surprised how much of a difference-maker this can be for a sufferer's mental state, especially as they worry about the outcome of their illness.
  • If a social media friend has become particularly close, call them or Zoom with them.
  • Remember, virtual connections are vital right now. Take advantage. If you "feel funny" virtually contacting a family member of one who died of Covid-19, understand others have the same trepidation. If no one contacts a surviving family member to check in, ask yourself where does that leave them?

Little actions like these, undertaken on the part of many, create a big pool. I suggest instead of grappling with misplaced guilt, which is of course very human, honoring Covid-19 victims and/or their families in these manners creates wellsprings of goodwill for both the individuals who share the words and those who receive them.

***

It is prudent, I believe, to end this piece here as it is far too easy to preach if I go on. I only ask for a moment's contemplation: Doing nothing is easy. Contacting anyone for this purpose is hard.

Do it, anyway.

Do not allow personal politics to interfere with showing some humanity to those who desperately need a connection today.

I tend to believe decency has its place too.

Thank you for reading. Happy Holidays, everyone.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

Northridge, CA
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