As the pandemic enters its second year, there’s a pent-up longing for the recent past, especially when it comes to life’s milestones. When the crisis finally resolves, will our new ways of marking births and deaths, weddings and anniversaries have any lasting impact? Or will freshly felt sentiments born of pandemic invention be fleeting?
Some predict their pandemic celebrations have set a new course. Others still mourn the way their traditions used to be.
Milestones, rituals and traditions help set the rhythm of our lives, from the annuals like birthdays and anniversaries to the one-timers like births and deaths, extending beyond those boundaries to more casual events like opening day (choose your sport), drinks out after work with colleagues and that first swim of summer.
Jennifer Talarico, a psychology professor at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania who studies memory and personal experience, says certain events shape lives differently — and have been reshaped just as differently during the pandemic. Perhaps most devastatingly impacted, she says, are death and dying, sitting at bedsides to comfort and attending funerals to mourn as the coronavirus has killed more than 2.3 million people around the world.