I am alone for Christmas this year. I’ve lived alone for years, so I don’t think it will totally bother me, but for some reason, this year I’m a little worried that it’s going to be more difficult.
In years past, I’ve been invited over to the houses of friends or family to watch gift opening or share a meal. This year, none of that is going to happen.
What do you tell someone like me who is waking to a quiet and empty house on Christmas?
There is a huge difference between being “alone” and being “lonely.” I know lots of people who are surrounded by people on a regular basis but feel overwhelming loneliness. On the other hand, being “alone“ is a state we all have to cope with from time to time.
Since you don’t mind being alone most of the time, Christmas morning shouldn’t be terribly different than the rest of the mornings you wake up alone. Granted, it’s a holiday full of family and friendship traditions (even Christmas songs remind us of this). You might have fond memories of being with your family or friends in years past, which create a longing to be connected. Or, it’s possible you have chosen to be alone because some of those relationships have caused you distress and this is the year you have decided to keep yourself separate; such choices can be passages in themselves, passages to accept and respect.
Whatever the case may be, you aren’t telling me you live a lonely life. You’re telling me that for this particular holiday, you’re going to be alone.
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Don’t panic and fill your day with busyness just to fight off feelings of loneliness. That can actually make you feel worse. I encourage you to accept the aloneness of this day by not fighting it.
Many people who live alone are very busy most of the time, they are the ones that get called on to be helpers for this and that. Not unlike caretakers, single people often really need what some call “me time.” That might just be the gift you give yourself this Christmas day.
Try finding a quiet moment and calm your body and mind. Notice what happens when you still your mind, body, and your breathing and acknowledge to yourself that you’re going to be alone for Christmas day. You might feel some sadness, some longing for connection, and some uncertainty. Those are all healthy and understandable emotions. You don’t need to make those go away and you don’t need to give into them and do something dramatic. You can just feel them and honor the fact that you’re someone who values connection and relationships.
Think about why Christmas day is special to you and where these feelings come from. Do you have special traditions that make this day meaningful for you? You can still go through the day connecting to your traditions to give your day context and meaning.
This might be a day to take your alone time outdoors – especially if you feel an empty home closing in on you. Consider climbing that hill or canyon that you’ve often looked at and said to yourself, “I wonder where that leads.” Find that pinnacle and enjoy being above the fray. Quiet time, peaceful time, meditation and prayer time as suits you can give you your own Christmas memory to cherish.
If you have memories of genuine connection with loved ones in years past, then see if you can recall those traditions and memories with your loved ones. You might even pull out photos or videos of past Christmases to deepen you connection to these important people.
Unless it’s your own pleasure of choice, there is much you can do besides watching reruns of “It’s a Wonderful Life” all day long until you conclude that yours is not so wonderful at all.
Just remember, just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely.
Ed. Note: This column was first published Dec. 25, 2013; republished Dec. 25, 2015
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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