For many people, it’s not going to be an “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go” kind of holiday. Festive gatherings often conjure a Norman Rockwell image — a big family, all smiles, gathered around a succulent, golden turkey.
But for many — particularly those who are divorced, widowed, or estranged from family, the long stretch from Thanksgiving through New Year’s can be lonely, stressful, and depressing.
Whatever the reason, many find themselves alone for the holidays. With the emphasis on families and being with others, the holidays can be an especially lonely and trying time. But there are many things you can do to make the holidays a little less lonely when you’re alone.
There are many categories of expectations about the season being just right that it brings up all sorts of issues relating to family, stress and anxiety, eating disorders, sobriety, self-esteem, competency — the list goes on. There’s this idea that it is supposed to be perfect, but statistically, traditional households in this country are not in the majority.
Pick up the phone
Call friends and ask to be included in whatever they’re doing. Offer to bring a dish to pass or see how you can contribute to the gathering. Most people love opening their homes and expanding the celebration. It works for everyone.
Create an “alternative family” made up of people whose company you enjoy. Plan and prepare a potluck feast if you like. Remember that you are not alone in being alone during the holidays. Get together with others and have some fun.
Plan an outing
Go on a hike, weather-permitting, or go to the movies, a park or a museum. Enjoy the outing with your group or by yourself.
Treat yourself to a day of beauty at a spa, get a massage or find some other special way to luxuriate. Do whatever you enjoy doing.
If you can’t be with family or loved ones during this time of the year, send them letters or emails or call them — in other words, reach out to them.
Remember your bonds
Pull out photo albums and read old letters. While this may be bittersweet, it is not toxic. If possible, get on the phone and talk with loved ones who are still living.
Volunteering at a mission or shelter for the homeless or an animal shelter will help you feel connected. Participate in activities with such an organization at other times of the year, not just on one day of the year. This will make the experience more fulfilling.
If you can afford it, get away for a few days. Go skiing or take a tropical holiday. Singles groups often have tour groups during the holidays. Doing so will help you get out of the traditional holiday mindset.
Get through the day.
If you’re unable to do any of these things, do what you need to just get through it. Read. Sleep. Rent movies. And remember, tomorrow it’ll all be over.
The holidays can be a lonely time, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel alone. Stay focused on acknowledging and meeting your needs, and the holidays will be over before you know it.