Alone for Christmas? For some of us, coronavirus has meant a dramatic change to how we will be spending the festive period. For others, being on your own for Christmas is expected. Loneliness can be difficult to cope with at any time of the year, but add a little forced festive cheer and, for many, it becomes unbearable. With the festive season emphasising family, togetherness and merriment, the absence of those features is painfully accentuated. If you're set to spend any part of the Christmas period alone, here are our tips for how to cope with loneliness this Christmas.
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“Christmas with my family always meant so much to me, but I was newly divorced and both my adult children were with their in-laws. I dreaded it...but I actually had quite a nice day with no rushing about.”
Perhaps one of the most isolating feelings when it comes to spending Christmas alone is the idea that you're the only one in that situation. No matter what the rules are by late December, many people will opt for caution and stay at home. In a survey we ran earlier in the year, over half of Gransnet users expected to be spending Christmas on their own. In short there are lots of people who, for whatever reason, are feeling isolated and aren't seeing friends or family at Christmas.
“I have Christmas alone sometimes by choice, it’s fine. Treat yourself to the best of the telly, some fab food, a good book and enjoy the day.”
Don't feel pressured to accept invitations if you'd really rather be by yourself, or feel that for everyone's health it's the more sensible option.
If you're not sure whether you want to accept an invite, or are wavering, make a compromise in the form of dropping by for a festive drink before or after Christmas dinner, then spend the rest of the day as you want to.
"My friend arranged with the local Salvation Army to help out serving the Christmas dinners at their centre to local homeless people - one of the best Christmas days she said she's ever had."
Volunteering is one of the few activities that is still allowed during England's lockdown. While volunteering, you can meet in groups of any size from different households, indoors or outdoors, although social distancing outside of your bubble should still be observed. If you are worried about leaving the house you may prefer to do a home-based volunteering roles, such as working on a telephone support helpline. Take a look at your local charities or religious groups, and stave off the loneliness whilst also giving something back to the community.
Whilst it may be tempting to say 'sod it' and work your way through a vat of Christmas wine, excessive drinking and eating will do very little to lift your mood and will only make you feel worse later on. You must try to get moving, interact, and keep looking outward instead of inward. Like the outdoors? Try going for a winter walk. Have a neighbour in the same position? Suggest they accompany you and you can have a (government-allowed) bit of exercise and a catch-up at the same time. Sometimes it's much easier for the conversation to flow when you're actively doing something with another person.
Spending Christmas Day alone can also be a good time to defy expectations and do whatever you want to do, without the traditional holiday constraints. It might be the perfect time to indulge in a backlog of books and films. Additionally, instead of worrying about Christmas dinner, why not treat yourself to a takeaway and support a local restaurant?
"Yes, it is 'just another day', but it must be so hard to push aside the feelings of loss and loneliness."
Don't bottle it up - it can have a negative impact on your mental health. If you feel lonely, even if just from time to time, talk to someone. Whether it's a counsellor, a family member or a friend, it's far better to acknowledge your feelings and understand that they are valid and real.
The Silver Line has a helpline that allows people who may be feeling alone to make personal connections, and The Campaign to End Loneliness has lots of information on loneliness and how to get support. And don't forget, there's a large community of supportive people to chat with here on Gransnet (some of whom will be dealing with the same feelings), even over the Christmas period.
We at Gransnet have given some suggestions as to how you should spend your Christmas, but the important thing is that you look after yourself, and make sure you feel as comfortable as possible. And, of course, don't forget to pop into our virtual annual Christmas party thread, which will be live shortly.