It's the Most Lonely Time of the Year
As if feeling lonely isn’t bad enough by itself, add the Holidays to the mix and your loneliness becomes magnified. Excitement is in the air during this time with extra stuff crowded the isles at most stores in all kinds of bright and cheerful colors screaming “buy me”. The aroma of scented candles and flavored coffee permeates the air while the music is loud and joyful with new versions of familiar lyrics. The traffic is busy at odd times during the day with more people on the road, in the airports, on the subway and at train stations. Lights flash, decorations hung, Santa hats appear, and the excess of delicious food and drink dominate the atmosphere.
But no one else seems to be lonely. One quick glance around you yields abundant laughter, smiles of delight on children’s faces, and embraces of greeting. Yet you find yourself feeling even more alienated, more alone, and more depressed as even acquaintances treat you more like Scrooge or the Grinch, a person to be avoided rather than included. And realistically, you don’t even want to be included because then the expectation would be to put on a happy face and you just can’t fake it anymore. So just how do you then survive the Holidays?
Perspective, perspective, perspective. Everything is not what it seems. The reality is that many are struggling this year financially, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually, they just don’t show it. Your honesty about how you feel reminds them of their struggles which they are trying hard to forget. But this reality still does not decrease your loneliness; in fact, it increases it because now the avoidance is intentional. However, by understanding better their perspective, you in turn have the opportunity to be the compassionate person. So instead of trying to survive yet another party, invite one person out for coffee and just talk.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. One of the causes of loneliness is a lack of appropriate boundaries. How you ask? Examine a playground for a moment. Several studies have shown that a playground without a fence causes children to hover around the equipment. In contrast, a playground with a fence frees the children to run away from the equipment yet still within the confines of the fence. If the fence is too close to the equipment, the fence becomes part of the equipment and is climbed over. Good boundaries are the same way; they exist but are neither too restrictive nor too distant to be effective. Examine your boundaries. Are you too restrictive about trying new friendships? Do you lack boundaries for new friendships? Either way, this simple concept could be creating unnecessary loneliness in your life.
Time, time, time. If the cause of your loneliness is a death, divorce, or other significant life change within the last year, then you are still within the appropriate grieving period. Anytime you endure a major life change, everything changes especially how you celebrate the Holidays. This year will be different because your life change is making it different and you are most likely missing the good times of the past. Even though your life change may have been a welcomed one there will still be things that you will miss. Don’t try to deny it; rather recognize it and acknowledge it as part of the grieving process. Then you can begin to look forward to creating a new tradition.
Surviving “the most lonely time of the year” is about keeping your perspective, establishing appropriate boundaries and giving yourself the gift of time to recover from major change. Your loneliness may be here for a season, but it does not have to last after the season is done.