Being alone is bad enough at weekends and bank holidays, but as we gallop towards Christmas, is it really the season to be jolly if you are separated, divorced or bereaved?
For families post divorce or bereavement, the festive season is more sad and stressful than merry and bright. Are you worrying about spending Christmas alone?
Emotions will be running high
There are many emotions which play-out around Christmastime and they include loneliness, sadness, fear, anger and worry. The biggest issue for divorced families with children is of course “who has the children for Christmas” and this is something which needs to be worked out. For some couples who have been through acrimonious proceedings, the only way forward is for Christmas contact to be written into a court order. This is fine while the children are very small, but what happens when the children are for example over 10 and want to have their voices heard?
The wishes and feelings of your children
In general, over the age of 10 the courts will consider that the wishes and feelings of the children should be very much taken into account. Parents need to swallow their pride and make their own plans if they are not “the chosen one”. It could be that a child wants to spend Christmas in the company of a particular grandparent or around other family members. There is no denying that for the parent who is essentially being rejected, it can be a bitter pill to swallow.
So what should you do if you are the parent left behind like “elf on the shelf”? The first thing to do is ditch the resent. Having feelings of anger and bitterness serve no purpose if you are alone at Christmas and you will end up feeling worse than ever. You have to get proactive and focus on being happy that your children are having a great time. It is also important to let children know what your plans are so they don’t feel any guilt or sadness around you being alone. Telling your children your arrangements sets you up as that great role model; you have taken a situation and dealt with it in a positive way and are happy that they are content and having a good time; That’s all that matters. You have prioritised your children’s wishes over your own.
Don’t sulk because you are spending christmas alone
Don’t spend the holidays sulking if you are spending christmas alone, get active and organise yourself. Make sure you let friends and family know that you are going to be alone and maybe you will get an invite or two. If this is unlikely to happen, see who else is in the same boat and make your own festive soiree. If you are offering to host, there are bound to be some takers. An adult only Christmas can be super fun! Think grown-up conversation and gourmet cooking, maybe invite friends to bring the starter and dessert. Dust off the board games and have a fabulous time.
If you really find yourself on your tod, consider volunteering. There are plenty of charities who welcome assistance over the festive period, so start planning. You will feel amazing that you are bringing joy to others less fortunate that yourself. Being kind always has that affect. You could offer to pet sit for a neighbour if they are going away. Having a dog around to walk will soon see the day pass. There may be opportunities to dog walk with a local animal rescue centre.
Celebrations, holiday periods and anniversaries can be very challenging for people who’ve experienced grief and loss of any kind.
Clients I’ve worked with often recreate their own rituals and meaning making experiences for these times. The changes and challenges that loss brings, can also be an opportune time to recreate and develop new ways of being and rethink things and ask: what do I really want to do anyway?
One client said recently, “I’d never really liked a full Christmas roast anyway, it’s just so much work. This year will be much more enjoyable as I’ve let go of that pressure too now.” Their accompanying playlist didn’t feature a single traditional Christmas carol but all of their father’s favourite songs from the 60s. Two easy ways to make things work for them.
TOP TIP: Rewrite rules that work for you anytime you like.
This can be a lot fun and offer a brighter sense of hope during what can be a hard time. Yes it can be rough, especially if you’ve experienced significant loss, but can also create bright spots of hope and joy to light our way forward.Patrick Hill – Coaching for Grief, Loss and Life
It’s just a day
The thing to remember is that Christmas Day is just that, it’s one day out of an entire year. If you do find yourself alone, relish it. Think about the times when you have been rushed off your feet and wishing for a day of peace. That’s why it is so important to think about what you are doing, well ahead of the actual day. If you are crazy busy in the run up to Christmas, you might well find yourself absolutely delighted to arrive at the 24th December so you can put your feet up for a couple of days. You have been desperate for the day to arrive!
Christmas is a “season” so get yourself involved with some of the festive activities around you. See friends and family and get yourself “christmassed out” so that when the actual day arrives you can think of nothing worse than having to speak to people.
Change things around
Christmas Day doesn’t actually have to happen on a particular day and it may be that your partner has the kids on the 25th December and you decide to do something extra special with them on New Years Eve. The space between Christmas and New Year allows for that all important food-break before over-indulging again celebrating the start of the new annum. If you change the day, then you are not having christmas alone.
I wasn’t alone at Christmas, I had my son. But he was 4 months old when my husband died, so I have often been the only adult in the house at Christmas. Even when people were around, loneliness and sadness where still in full flow. Putting myself first, reflecting on what I wanted Christmas to look like and finding the strength to take action on that desire was the best change I made. To step out and try to enjoy myself, with or without other people will NEVER be something I regret. The times I didn’t do it are the ones I do regret.Rebecca Worthington – Beworthy
Even with your friends, family and children around you, it can still feel lonely. Maybe you are missing your ex, thinking about past holidays or feeling regret that the children are spending Christmas with just one parent. Sometimes it can feel better to do things a little different in the circumstances. Maybe this year you are not going to hang stockings up at the fireplace, with one absent, you are going to have sacks for the gifts. Perhaps you have always had Christmas at 6pm and this year you are going to have Christmas lunch. Use the opportunity to change from the norm and have a fresh start.
If you are feeling really low about being alone this Christmas
Don’t forget that charities such as the Samaritans are there to listen, even on Christmas Day.