I grew up loving Christmas. The holidays are the single greatest time of the entire year in my eyes and always will be.
But when I met my wife, my perspective on Christmas changed. She grew up with some pretty horrible Christmas memories that make her hate the holidays and everything about them.
It made me rethink what makes the holidays a special time and what can lead the holidays to become a trigger for loneliness and pain.
It’s people. It’s always the people in our life (whether they’re still around or not).
If you have a loving group of people, anyone even, the holidays can be really great. But if you have to spend the holidays alone, or you have in the past and it now triggers some depressing or sour memories, it can be really difficult to get through.
But whether you may have to spend the holidays alone due to your personal situation, geography, work, a recent loss, physical health, or something else, there are things you can do to navigate that loneliness and make the most of the holidays.
Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.
– Henry Rollins
Here’s how to navigate the holiday season if you’re alone.
Stay connected in any way you can.
We’re social creatures, so however you can connect and whoever you have to connect with, make the most of it.
The more connection you have over the holidays, whether stranger or loved one, the better your spirits will be.
Even if it’s long-distance via calls, FaceTime, or just staying connected with one another on social, that will keep you from feeling entirely alone, so it’s a whole lot better than nothing.
Another option is connecting with perfect strangers at your local food bank volunteering, church for the holidays if you don’t often visit, or giving your time in some other way that allows you to connect with and help others.
The holidays are a time where people are in much better spirits and more receptive in general, so it’s an opportune moment to get out there and connect with new people.
Make the holidays something new.
For many of us, what makes the holidays such a lonely and difficult time are the memories. The past is literally reaching forward to haunt us each year for as long as we’ll let it.
But just in the way that those old memories can cause you to feel alone and even depressed, you can create new memories that change the very meaning of the holidays for you.
My wife still mostly dislikes Christmas, but over the past several years she’s realized she has a love for Christmas decorating. Ironically, for decorating in some unique way –not traditional white/red/green — such as a frosty blue or pearly white holiday theme. This is something that we all enjoy together each year and has become a part of our own new tradition.
Call it her way of rebelling against Christmas, but when our local Michael’s craft store starts their holiday decoration sale, she’s all over it.
Change the scenery.
Sometimes, it’s the setting which triggers the emotions. If that’s the case, it will be very difficult to drive around town and not conjure up difficult memories throughout the holidays.
To counter this, make a more significant change for the holidays and travel for a week or longer. If you can’t afford to fly somewhere, take a road trip.
If you’re in the U.S., the Amtrak train circuit runs throughout most of the country and is priced affordably for most.
You can take a comfortable trip through the beautiful countryside, stay somewhere for a few days, then take the train home an entirely different route (or the same) and end up coming away with what could be a life-changing trip instead of a difficult holiday.