Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How to Spend Christmas Alone

    She's been divorced now for ten years. Her kids are spending Christmas with their dad and she's looking into the face of a gaping hole called Christmas Alone. She's dreading it. She's been there before and she knows it will be the longest day of the year. I've been re-singled now for almost twenty years and I know of which she speaks. It's not a happy time, but can be made at least tolerable and may have life-changing results. This is what I told her:

    The first year of the break-up I didn't think I could survive Christmas Alone, so I call my sister-in-law and asked if I could come over on Christmas day, just to be with the kids. She agreed, and they were nice enough to me on the day, but I felt awkward - like an amputated arm that keeps causing pain. I stayed through the meal but left soon after, thanking the hostess and gently saying goodbye to my kids. I realized then I had to stand on my own two feet when the day came around.
    The next year the kids were with me so I was alright. My ex and I agreed to trade having the kids each year.
    Year three loomed up and by November, I knew I had to make plans. Then my mother invited me to stay with her a couple of days over Christmas. This, too was somewhat awkward. She and I had never been close. She was also single by then, so the buffer of my dad who kept things jolly was now gone and Mom and I stared at our plates that first night, trying to think of something to say. On Christmas day, we went for supper to her friend's house. It was full of family and very jolly so it was a reprieve of the awkwardness at Mom's house.
    Year four - kids with me again, thank goodness. Kids always add a sense of fun and excitement to a house at Christmas no matter what their age, and my teenagers were no exception.
    On year five, I felt restless and wanted to do something different. November was grinding past and nothing came to me. Finally I decided to go to the spa in Moose Jaw. I would go for a swim, have a massage, and some relaxing quiet times in my hotel room. It sounded perfect to me and I made a reservation for two nights.
    I could have enjoyed it if it was at any other time. The place was full of couples and families enjoying a vacation together. When I entered the pool or the restaurant, my aloneness became apparent to everyone at a time when togetherness was the thing. Conversation stopped as people alternately watched me and looked away. The massage was the best part. No one needed to know that I was alone and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Afterward, I went to my room and relaxed with a good movie. The next day, I sought out a restaurant down the street. However, it was Christmas Day and lunch alone seemed strange although better than eating among the families in the spa's restaurant. There were other people alone there so I didn't stick out. For supper that day I ordered room service and asked myself if I was hiding or treating myself. I was very glad to be going home the next day. Mission accomplished - I had survived Christmas and I had satisfied my yearning for something different, but it had not turned out to be the pleasant experience I was hoping for because of Christmas - the very reason I was there in the first place.
    In the years following, I felt comfortable staying at home alone, but I planned things to do that would make the time go by. I realized that Christmas was only one day, and one day goes by pretty fast. When that day is over, everyone goes on with their normal life, and so can I. All I needed to do was get through just one day.

Here are some don'ts for Christmas Alone planning:
  •     Don't sit at home feeling sorry for yourself.
  •     Don't go to a fancy restaurant where families and couples will be celebrating the day. Your aloneness will only exacerbate your situation.
  •     Don't accept an invitation from someone who feels sorry for you. You will receive pity and condescension from your host for the entire time you are there, making you feel worse than ever. Be polite, but keep your dignity and say something like you couldn't possibly intrude on her family at such a time. Suggest coffee or lunch at another time, if that seems appropriate to you.

Here are some do's for Christmas Alone planning:
  •     Some hospitals ask for volunteers to walk the halls singing carols on Christmas day. No, you won't be walking alone, you walk with a group. Singing has a way of making you feel better at any time. It's a built in remedy people are made with, so share it with a group of like-minded volunteers and cheer up some lonely patients as well. Call ahead of time so they will be expecting you.
  •     Volunteer at a soup kitchen. No matter how much you feel sorry for yourself, you will feel blessed when you see the situation of some others, and you'll be helping out in a place that really needs you. You'll also make friends by working with other volunteers, and everybody needs those.
  •     Call someone who you know is also alone. Wish them a Merry Christmas. They'll appreciate the thought and you will feel better after just talking with someone.
  •     If you're able, shovel someone's walk who you know is unable.
  •     Go for a walk. Just getting outside and breathing in the fresh air will make you feel better.
  •     You could rent movies, but something active and especially with other people will work more to lift your spirits.

    Be smart about your loneliness. Be proactive. Christmas need not be a gaping hole looking at you. Having done something to take charge of a problem will make you feel powerful and the day just may bring life-long changes.


Sandi Somers said...

Thanks for a very sensitive discussion. Being alone can be awkward. Although I'm usually with my extended family for our dinner on Boxing Day, I have invited international families over for Christmas Day.

Addy Oberlin said...

It must be a disparate feeling to be alone at Christmas Day. I try to continue to go to the care homes this week. There are many lonely people there also.

Bobbi Junior said...

What a timely, honest post, Sheri. You've given numerous scenarios of trying to meet your own need, and how they didn't work. What strikes me is that the only thing that does work is reaching out to meet the needs of others. It feels counterintuitive, in secular thinking, but fits perfectly scripturally.

I'm going to share this as I know some who are struggling with this today. Thx for posting it.