Family. Wonder. Fun. Hope. Friends. Peace. Bright lights. Giftgiving. Joy.
This is normally what people think of when Christmas comes to mind, isn’t it? Fun, excitement… why would anyone dread the holidays?
It seems there’s something inherently peaceful about Christmas time and the origins of the celebrations. Yet, culture’s focus on Christmas has made a natural shift over the years and become quite solely focused on family and consumerism. Most holidays have become this way, but particularly Christmas. Family is definitely not a bad thing to prioritize and celebrate but when the focus becomes heavily centered on community, it often marginalizes those that don’t have it. The reminders are painful; the loneliness experienced at other times of the year becomes even more palpable.
In many ways, the loneliness is exasperated because we feel alone in our grief or loneliness, we can feel as if we are the only ones that feel this way. When we glance at social media or look around in our daily lives we see couples in love, new romances flourishing, families together, engagements, new baby arrivals and many joyful photos popping up everywhere… We feel like nobody else is experiencing loneliness, that nobody understands our pain, that we are alone. The reality is this may not be true but the pain, the misery of feeling alone – it’s still there. And it’s not easy to experience, especially at Christmas.
Loneliness is painful, but reaching out or putting oneself “out there” is also scary. Taking small steps towards community can add value to our lives and, although sometimes scary and difficult, intentional small actions can have long term gain. So here’s a few tips on how to deal with loneliness during the holidays:
1) Pick one person to deepen your connection with over the holidays
Finding community isn’t about going out and finding as many people to hang out with as possible. Extroverts may love this idea but for most people, extroverts included, finding deep and meaningful connections fulfills some of the longings of a lonely heart and mind. A small step to take this Christmas season is to find one person in your life that you can reach out to and build a relationship with. Perhaps do an activity together, spend some time catching up over coffee or over text. Make an effort to check in and ask them about their life. Finding a good friend in this season is important; a reciprocal relationship that is deeper than surface level can add meaning and value to this difficult season.
2) Say yes to one social invitation
Even if you just go for an hour, say yes to one social invite over the holidays. It’s hard to put yourself out there but it will get harder and harder the more that you isolate yourself. Many times people who feel discouraged and lonely will believe that an invitation isn’t genuine or that they are only receiving the invite out of pity. The reality is that oftentimes the person extending the invite genuinely does enjoy their friend’s company, doesn’t feel it’s a bother that they spend time with them and is often happy to extend invites and include friends in their holiday plans. Don’t overthink; take a risk and challenge yourself to go, even for just a bit.
3) Try something new
Especially for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones during the holidays or those who are discouraged after heartbreak, breakups or family conflict, the holidays hold many memories of activities and calendar dates that can trigger more sadness and pain than happy memories. It’s important to allow space to grieve and honor memories of loved ones and the happy moments of life, but it’s also helpful to challenge yourself to try new things and create new memories and traditions that will honour the stage of life you are in. If you are single but grieving the loss of a romantic relationship, perhaps you can go with a friend to a new and fun Christmas event or market. If you’ve experienced estrangement in your family due to family drama over the holidays you could create a new tradition with friends like doing a White Elephant gift exchange over a brunch. In any stage of loneliness, you could also serve at a soup kitchen or create a gift basket for someone in need. Serving others is a great way to give meaning to your time, while also taking the focus off of yourself. It is a distraction for a time from the loneliness you may feel.
4) Be honest
As discussed, it’s so important to have authentic and meaningful connections in our lives. Our loneliness is a craving for intimacy and intimacy involves deeper relationships where we can feel known and loved just the way we are. We will not feel fully known and loved if we are not open about how we are feeling. When you find that one person to reach out to – that one friend you trust, that one person in an online community that you feel safe to share with, etc – be honest; take a risk to build a real relationship with someone. You do run the risk of rejection but starting small in trusting a friend with personal things can help you test out the person’s safety level. Be honest about how you are really doing when they ask. “Actually I find this time of year challenging for me. I get lonely.” Perhaps they may not say much. BUT, perhaps they’ll share they feel the same way, or maybe they’ll invite you to join them in some of their Christmas plans. What do you have to lose?
Let’s face it, the holidays can be a hard season when you feel down or lonely. What’s helped you make it through?