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. In short, you're not. To put things in perspective, the United Kingdom was recently named 'the loneliness capital of Europe', and consequently there are lots of people who, for whatever reason, are feeling isolated and aren't seeing friends or family at Christmas.
Additionally, even if people aren't alone, it's also entirely possible to feel lonely in a room full of people. Take some of the pressure off yourself by recognising that many, many people are in the same boat and despite a common hesitance to discuss it, there's nothing to be embarrassed about.
“I have Christmas alone sometimes by choice, it’s fine. If you fancy some human contact nip out out to a carol service, then 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. Sometimes being in a room full of people who don't understand how you feel can make things worse. 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."
Easier said than done, we know. But take a look at things going on in your local community - walking groups, craft groups, evening courses... There are plenty around and many of these are free (or very cheap) to join. Sign up now and you may well be in time for their Christmas get-togethers too, so even if you aren't seeing friends and family on Christmas Day, you can still enjoy some festive fun beforehand. Making new friends may seem daunting, but other people are likely there for the same reason, and it may well be the best decision you've ever made.
The U3A, the Women's Institute and the Townswomen's Guild are particularly good organisations to get involved with as they operate all over the UK. You could also volunteer with local charities or religious groups over the festive season, and stave off the loneliness whilst also giving something back to the community.
You can also meet other Gransnetters through our meetups page. Many users like to meet for a cup of tea and a chat, and they're sure to welcome you warmly if you'd like to join them.
"Last year was the first Christmas I had ever spent on my own. Wasn't really looking forward to it, but two of my friends who also live on their own and myself decided we would have Christmas dinner at a local inn."
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? Invite them over for a mince pie and a chat. Feeling lethargic? Go for a quick bike ride.
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 or a meal out in a 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 you can find here.