‘tis the season of Norman Rockwell. You know what I mean; at this time of year every ad and commercial, every movie and song tells you it’s time to be surrounded by family and cuddled up with a loved one. Everything from jewelers to coffee companies lambaste us with the message TogetherTogetherTogether. Commercials sell us images of one big love in of compassion, caring, and connecting.
But for many, it’s a very lonely, isolating time of year.
Type No. One: Lonely in a Crowd
I suspect you think I’m referring to people who don’t have a partner or those who aren’t surrounded by family. Nope, ironically, some of the loneliest people I work with do have a partner and are surrounded by family. The feeling of loneliness is every bit as searing as for those who are truly alone. To be part of a couple and not feel connected is one of the most isolating experiences we can have. It is accompanied by sadness and longing, feelings of rejection and guilt. Being in the middle of a noisy, boisterous family gathering and feeling completely and utterly alone results in a painful ache. It may lead to thoughts of “what’s wrong with me?” or “what’s wrong with them?!”. Not fitting in and not being understood can lead people to feel very alone in a roomful of people.
Type No. Two: Lonely on Your Own
The other type of loneliness is for those who are physically alone, who don’t currently have a partner or family, or are geographically far from friends and family. For these people, it’s easy to have a “grass is greener on the other side” outlook, and forget that the happy images portrayed in ads are rarely how real life unfurls. It can be easy to slip into self-pity and a very blue holiday season.
The key element that both groups are missing is connection. A true sense of joining together with others and sharing. This does not mean sharing gifts or sharing a deep, intimate connection. It means letting ourselves truly tune in to another person and enjoy their company, whether it’s for five minutes or five hours.
If you’re alone and yearning for connection, do some research and seek out opportunities to be with people. Make it happen in a way that feels good for you. A quick Google search of “holiday volunteering” results in loads of opportunities. Giving back and being connected is a sure way to beat the holiday blues. Some of the best holiday gatherings I know of do not include family, but are gatherings of singles in the city that are without family. It’s the family of friends (and strangers) you bring together and enjoy.
If you happen to be with family and feel lonely, do your best to create a connection by focusing on others. Ask old Uncle Archie what he remembers from his childhood Christmas. Ask your Nona or Bubbeh what foods were traditional in their families at holidays. Dig deep to forge connections rather than lamenting that none exist. People usually love to talk about themselves, plant a few great conversation starters, and then really listen. Just because there hasn’t been the kind of connection you want in the past, doesn’t mean that you can’t create the connection you want now.
Maybe your perfect holiday will be spent alone – but it doesn’t need to be sad and lonely. Perhaps you’ll take the opportunity to nestle on the sofa with a cozy quilt, tasty nibbles, a great book or movie, and a pot of tea. A quiet walk when the entire world seems to be tucked inside. An indulgent mid-day nap. You get to design this day.
Whether you are on your own or in a crowd of family or new acquaintances, banish loneliness by creating connection. It is the greatest gift you can give and receive.