We can be sailing along just fine – independent, self-contained, pursuing our own interests, plenty of friends, regular contact with family members – and then boom! – the holidays come upon us and we feel like our ship starts to sink.
There are sparkly lights and jolly decorations everywhere. Holiday music is being blared in whatever public place we enter.
Everywhere, the billboards, magazine covers, window displays and television commercials say to us, “See? See the happy families? The homes full of happy people? The warm gatherings of good friends? The wealth being liberally distributed by everybody? Except, um, you?”
And you start feeling financially constricted and alone. You feel that you are not keeping up with ‘everybody else.’
When you live alone, these sinking feelings can really pull you down. After all, there is no one in your home to join you in hanging ornaments on your tree or putting up your outdoor lights.
There is no one with you in the kitchen decorating cookies. There is no one to share a milk punch by the last light of the fire before you go to bed. At home, you are not part of ‘a gathering,’ as the world is telling you that you should be.
During the holidays, moments of loneliness that otherwise would be fleeting can take on extra strength.
In these days of stretched-out pandemic, political issues, wars around the world and tragic shootings, the collective angst adds an extra layer of stress to the isolation we can feel. The holidays that are upon us could be our worst ever as far as loneliness goes.
Along with you, I’ve watched the awful news reports about politics, war, terrorism and natural disasters. Along with you, I’ve felt true despair about what’s going on in the world, and I’ve wished I could do something about it all.
But of course, I can’t. So I’ve decided to concentrate on one thing that I can help with, and that’s loneliness, especially during the holidays.
Many studies have confirmed that loneliness is not only distressing, it’s damaging to a person’s health and longevity.
The late John Cacioppo, who worked as a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, had said that the effect of social isolation on health and mortality is comparable to high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise or smoking.
According to Gary J. Kennedy, M.D., social isolation results in a lack of mental stimulation which increases the risk of dementia.
Here are some ways you can alleviate loneliness, especially if you live alone:
I’m sure you’ve heard the age-old advice, “If you’re lonely, never say no to an invitation.” That’s pretty good thinking. People do tend to stop asking if you keep saying no, so say yes as much as you can.
Or, how about hosting your own soiree? There’s nothing quite like preparing for a group of friends or family who’re going to come to your home. Somehow, your house feels more welcoming when you know people are coming.
And, at the end of an evening that’s filled with laughter and conversation, shared food, wine, and convivial spirits, the presence of these friends will linger in your home along with new good memories and warm feelings, for some time.
Bake a batch of cookies or candy and wrap up small parcels for your next-door neighbors, the family across the street, your gardener, your housecleaner. It feels good – and yes, somehow less lonely, to be industrious and giving, and to send good food and good wishes out into the world.
You don’t have to commit to the idea right on the spot, but you can open the door to thinking about it. Seek out others who might be looking to live in a shared home. Talk with them online, or meet with them in person.
You don’t have to say, “I’m definitely looking for a roommate,” but rather, “I’m considering living with a roommate. Would you like to get together to talk about the idea? I’d value learning what you know and what you’ve considered in the way of sharing a home. I want to investigate the idea further.”
You can seek out and connect with potential roommates on sites like Senior Home Shares, SilverNest and others.
If you live by yourself, do the holidays tend to make you feel alone and lonely? Have you ever considered living with a roommate? Please share your thoughts and concerns about this possibility in the comments below.
For years the holidays brought difficult days for me. Happily married with children, it just didn’t make sense. I would avoid social events and break into tears for no reason. Finally diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) I understood why; doing something about it was another issue. Yes, I have the lamp and try to get outside as much as possible on sunny days, but SAD is sneaky and can catch me off guard. Like many women our age, I have a very sick husband who is losing his battle with cancer and now on oxygen 24/7. We fear this will be his last Christmas . . .
Helplessness, self pity and loneliness try to get to me, and I know it. And I cannot let them win. No big tree this year, limited decorations, and efforts to stay busy – all help, but sometimes the tears just flow, and outside I go. Walking the dog is one of the best remedies, and good for “Ollie”, too.
Bottom line: it’s up to me: I can choose to be sad and wallow in self pity, or do the best I can to make my husband’s last days the best they can be, and take care of myself in the process so I can help him. And sometimes becoming Scarlett helps, “I’ll think about that tomorrow”.
Dear Kathryn I feel you. My husband is in the last months too. I am trying to keep my face of the floor and give him a good Christmas and for the family too. He’s in a better mind set than met and he’s 83. Hang in there. Day at a time is my philosophy hard as it is. Sending you a hug even though I don’t know you I stand beside you. Best, Karyn
I love Christmas music, so even though we are 1000 miles away from family & friends, I will go to the Christmas Eve Candlelight service at church and the Sunday a.m. Christmas service. I’ll eat out and send holiday text GIF’s to my friends & family. I’ve got ways to fill my holiday time that helps me focus on the joy of the season!
Why not focus on enjoying the Christmas season on your own. I am alone and seeing happy families, the Christmas decorations, and sing to the Christmas songs … makes me elated that humanity is celebrating Christ’s birth. Yes, once in a while I boohoo and then I accept my feelings then move on to the present. It’s all in the attitude. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities to help humankind. In turn, you will be around caring and compassionate people which may become new acquantences. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
I live in a one bedroom cottage so sharing is a no – however I look at the holidays a bit differently- yes I’m on my own so why pretend Christmas is anything for me when I don’t feel it?
My best Christmas recently went like this – I got up a 3am and picked up a friend who was also alone – we drove 3 hours to the beach where I had rented a beach hut for the day – we watched the sun come up drinking a glass of champagne and eating smoked salmon – we then walked on the beach for a couple of hours before packing up and heading home I dropped her off at lunchtime and went home for an afternoon classic movie – not once did I feel hard done by.
This year I am packing a picnic breakfast and driving to watch the sunrise at a stunning windmill – I will be alone but not lonely
I think that by trying to hard to do the expected thing we just feel more alone – try something different this year x
I don’t live alone, but it’s as if I do. I have an 82 yr old 5 yr old. Life hasn’t been the greatest for 10 yrs. This year I just don’t have the energy or mental strength in digging out decs for just a couple weeks. I really could care less. Commercialism seems senseless n over pushed