“We are all doing it differently this year.” You have been hearing this refrain for weeks, as we approach the holidays and the virus rages out of control here in the Pacific Northwest and really around the country. Like many of you, my family won’t be gathering the way we normally do on Thanksgiving. While that is sad, we have agreed that we would rather not gather this year, yet be able to know we can gather for many more. My parents will do a drive by to our respective homes and drop off some treats, because those are just the kinds of parents we are lucky enough to have that want to do that. I am 43, so you would think I would be doing the drive-by at my parent’s house, but they like to make the rounds and see their grandchildren from outside and bring some joy, so they will do just that. This is an example of doing things differently and still finding a way to spread the love, be thankful for what we can do, and still celebrate family. I continue to be inspired by the resilience of my parents and the many families I work with who are finding new ways to connect this year.

Despite the fact that we are doing things differently and that I will not have a house full of my family the way I expected this year, I woke up this morning grateful. I am always grateful for a day or rest, but even more grateful that my family is all healthy. I know that is not the not the case for everyone out there and my thoughts are truly with everyone who has lost someone or has friends and family members impacted by the virus or other illness. The holidays are not always a joyful or peaceful time. For those who have been impacted by loss of any kind, they are a painful time.

I am also aware that there are many kinds of “healthy.” Today feels like the true start of the holiday season and time for real talk about this. This pandemic has impacted more than just our physical health. Mental health is at center stage more than ever before. This is a year of “different” in so many ways, many of them detrimental to mental health as much as physical. For those of you who are struggling with isolation due to the changes the pandemic has brought about, you are not alone. In what we do at the firm, we see more people than ever struggling with the depression of being cut off from support systems in the traditional sense. The gatherings we are used to are very much gone or limited. Many of us have not seen friends the way we are used to in months or even all year. Zoom is a great tool, but we all know what Zoom fatigue is by now and it is very real. For some, even participating in a video event is too much to take on emotionally. Sending a text and initiating it can seem like too much. You may not know who in your family or circle is struggling with depression, isolation, or who may not be able to reach out. It is a good idea to take stock of who you have not heard from, who is not connecting on social media, via text, and who seems to have fallen off the grid. If you are someone who is a “connecter” in your circle it is normal that you, too, feel the loss of the social and emotional norms as well, but if you are not as impacted and have been able to maintain other ways of connection you hold a lot of power. You can reach out in a way that others may feel they cannot . You can send that text message to check in, the email to say, “hey, checking in and thinking of you — how are you, how are your kids, etc.?” A message like that is much easier to respond to than to initiate for many people. If you do not hear back a first time, try again later or reach out another way.

We are well into this pandemic, but fresh into the holiday season. This season brings a renewed sense of hope for some, but despair for others. Give thanks if you are functioning well, but remember that others you care about may not be and you may not know, but you can try to identify them and help. We are truly all in this together. If anyone out there needs help, I am always a text, phone call, or message away. Happy Thanksgiving to all. I wish you and yours the best.