Christmas should be an exciting time. It's a time to meet up with family and an opportunity to spoil them and to indulge in the Christmas fayre. For some, though, this time of celebration can feel lonely even with family and friends around. For those who are literally alone, Christmas is an especially challenging time with loneliness exacerbated by all the frivolity and joy going on. Many people experience loneliness at Christmas; it is a time that is especially hard for those who are recently alone due to bereavement or relationship breakdown.
Loneliness and being alone is not the same thing. Some choose to be alone or accept being alone and are perfectly, genuinely happy. For some of you, although you may have social events, friends and family around, you still feel that knawing loneliness. Many find it particularly hard to reach out and tell someone how they feel.
A client, let's call her Denise, says that her feelings of isolation and loneliness always peak at Christmas time, despite her active social life. She says that although she feels lonely at times, it is at Christmas that it always hits her hardest. She longs for the times of joy when her mum was alive, and the family would all gather at mums for the big day.
It is very easy to feel the pressure to be happy at Christmas, to put on a brave face and appear joyful even when inside you feel lonely.
Here are some tips to help manage the feelings:
Look after your health, including your mental wellbeing. Eat well, exercise and sleep. Don't overdo the alcohol; you feel worse in the long run.
Contact family and friends, see how they are and reminisce together.
Make plans for the Christmas holiday period. Because it’s a four day holiday this year is a difficult one for anyone alone. Make plans for each day over the holiday period. Arrange to phone someone, go to a park or for a walk along a beach.
Attend community get-togethers; local pantomimes are always a lot of fun. Attend a carol service, lots of villages and towns have carols around the Christmas tree.
When you are alone and don’t want to attend functions alone, volunteering is a brilliant way to get involved and help the community at the same time. Obvious options are homeless Christmas lunches. Other options are volunteering to help at the pantomime or other local event. Cat and dog shelters are often grateful for volunteers at this time of year so that staff can have some time off.
Whatever you decide to do, there are ways to work through, reach out, find what works for you and always remember there is someone else worse off than you.