Some people love the holidays, the cooking, the gatherings, the sparkle all add to the festive spirit of Christmas. Christmas can be so very special.
But for others, the holidays are a real challenge. Many people who live alone are acutely aware of their “aloneness” at this time of year. Maybe it’s going to a party and finding out everyone else there is a “couple” or staying home because you haven’t been invited to any celebrations, either way it feels bad.
I find a new compassion for those who dread the holidays and what they mean, or seem to symbolize. I think the holiday busyness becomes like a broken icon into the hurting soul – as if the image of one at home alone at Christmastime proves they are unloved and unwanted. I want to say to them, “No, this isn’t a statement of your value or love-ly ness,” but I know those words fall short when a heart is hurting. Why is it that we let the world define our value and our happiness? I wish I could hold back that tide of “shoulds” and “oughts” and make space for the heart that doesn’t feel light and joyful in the holiday season.
So what can you do to make this better right now? Here are some ideas to help you survive the holidays. Feel free to add your own ideas, this is only a start.
- Choose your music carefully. Some holiday songs can actually make you feel more alone and sad. Pick songs that are neutral or skip the holiday tunes all together.
- Go to church. Hear the stories of waiting and longing and the promise of God’s presence in our lives.
- Consider random acts of kindness. Tip more generously than you usually do, give to your favorite charity. One friend gives gift cards to strangers enclosed in a card bearing a message of God’s love.
- Turn off the TV. Really.
- Read a book,
- Reach out to others by inviting them to coffee or lunch, or send a handwritten note in a holiday card.
- Go for long walks.
- Make a donation to the animal defense league in your town.
- Make a list of things that fill you with joy and make a conscious effort to do some things on that list.
- Reconsider your fantasy that everyone who is at a party or gathered with their family is happy and joyful. As a therapist, I can promise you, it ain’t so.
- Visit the shut-ins in your neighborhood. Take them some cookies from the bakery or a little poinsettia, and talk to them.
- Take up woodworking – I just got a DW735x planer and a Bosch Ra1181 router table to get started with the new hobby!
- Volunteer. While you might not be able to slip into a volunteer slot this week, think about a place or a cause that you can support with your heart and your time. Maybe it’s holding babies in NICU, or feeding the homeless through one of the various community outreach organizations, become a volunteer for a crisis center, or even through your local church or synagogue. The United Way is a great place to start looking for organizations that need help.
- Be gentle with yourself. Often we judge ourselves for not feeling a certain way or having certain emotions that we think we are “supposed” to have. Give yourself a break and allow space for your feelings to come forward.