How to cope with feeling lonely on holidays

Family holidays, Christmas in particular, for most of us mean happy times – they are a chance to connect with our loved ones, share great meals and have fun time with family. If you just take a look at the numerous holiday TV ads and Christmas-themed movies – you’ll see that everyone there is happy, cosy and smiling… and everyone has a large, close-knitted family. Unfortunately, since we all have families, we all know that’s not always the case.

Some people have strained family relations and that often gets even more pronounced during the holidays. Some people’s core family members are not alive any more, some have no siblings, partners nor kids. Or their kids happen to be spending the holidays with their ex spouse. Some people’s family lives on the other side of the world and it’s not always easy to reunite. (Especially during the holidays when air ticket prices go through the roof. Shouldn’t that be times when they are at their lowest, to help us all get to our loved ones easier?)

If you are in those or similar situations, and for one reason or another can’t be reunited with family during Christmas, all the holiday cheer can create a completely opposite effect and make you feel really lonely and miserable. And it gets worse and worse as Christmas draws closer and seems like there’s no way to escape being reminded of it – and the fact you have nobody close to spend it with.

It’s not the actual days that are so hard to bear – after all, it’s a couple of days off work which in any other case we’d welcome with a happy grin: it’s the thoughts in our heads that make us feel bad, thoughts that say: ‘I have no one to spend Christmas with – which means nobody loves me. I am unlucky, not worth of being special to anyone. I’m not good enough.’

What a horrible thought to be associated with such a wonderful holiday. And yet, it’s a direct product of all the emphasis on love, connection and belonging that Christmas symbolises – and much like Valentine’s day as a celebration of romantic coupling makes everyone not-so-happy in love feel really low, family-focused holidays have a similar effect on people who don’t have a (happy) family.

To be honest, I’ve always thought Christmas is overrated any way. It comes with tons of stress around cooking, cleaning, buying presents, trying to please everyone (especially hard with today’s more and more demanding kids), not to mention the excessive spending that is for many a great burden on their finances. But yes, I get you – we feel stressed out and tired when we do have it, but dearly miss it when we don’t.

So how to get out of the holiday blues? You can’t run away from decorations, songs, shop windows and TV (unless you just lock yourself in for weeks, which is not a realistic option), but you can still choose how you’ll spend your Christmas, and how you’ll feel about it.

If you have friends who are also alone and have no family plans – go ahead and make plans together. I did that one year in a foreign country where I was working and living at the time: got together with a couple of friends and colleagues who didn’t get to go home that year either – agreed for everyone to bring some food, drinks and a surprise present which we then exchanged via raffle. It turned out just fine: we had fun, ate some yummy food and spent the day in company of people we care about – so nobody felt lonely even though we were all far from our families.

Or you can accept an invite from a friend’s family – people who know you are alone will be happy to have you around, and don’t worry about spoiling their family fun – they wouldn’t invite you if they thought you wouldn’t fit in.

If no invites or opportunities for socialising find their way to you, don’t be discouraged – you can still have a wonderful time even when you’re just on your own. Think about it as just any free day, a perfect opportunity to just relax on your own terms – and you’ll immediately feel better.

You can catch up with your favourite TV shows or movies, read a good book, pamper yourself with a warm bath or just do anything else around the house or outside that makes you feel good. Having a bit of peace and quiet is one of the greatest luxuries in today’s world, so savour it. Make the day all about you and indulge in whatever makes you happy.

There are other options to make your alone-time on holidays less lonely like travelling abroad, or helping in the community, or volunteering with some charity group – but most important, as with anything else, is your mindset. Christmas is a day just like any other – and you can spend it feeling good or bad, whether you’re on your own or surrounded by people.

It’s what you make of it that counts. So challenge yourself – and make it count! You’ll be surprised how many happy moments you can have once you let yourself be free of the idea that Christmas holidays can only be enjoyed with family. Besides, what have you got to lose – nothing but that dreadful feeling of loneliness. And that’s not much of a loss, isn’t it?


If you have a story or experience to share, please leave a comment below.
Always happy to hear what you’re thinking and whether you like my posts. Thank you!

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9 Responses

  1. Marianne Jelley says:

    I am that person you described in today’s post. Dysfunctional family, my long distance romantic partner is 1500 miles away and though I was able to find him 2 years ago, we still have not seen each other face to face in 43 years, since we dated at age 19. My son is divorcing next year and his wife is taking my only grandchildren with her. My other sons have girlfriends so they are obligated to going to that family and I was divorced last spring and live alone.
    I have my divorce decree, good alimony coming in, and live on the beach but none of that is significant when the ones you love and want to be with are not going to be with you.
    I’ve decided to ignore Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and NewYears Eve. They are just another day at home alone. I’m very sad and lonely especially this year but as you said, it’s just another day and if I immerse myself in Netflix and a book, I might be ok.

  2. Petra says:

    Thank you for your comment Marianne. I know it’s not easy to shake off the bad feelings. I truly hope things will change for the better for you next year. Thinking of you, and sending happy thoughts 🙂 Lots of love x

  3. Hi Petra, thank you a lot for this inspiring site. I would really appreciate if you just say, whether you have ever felt like that before. I am an active and successful lady of 31, but recently I feel that when the day is over, I feel lonely. I had a long relationship of 6 years, which ended 4 years ago. I do not find motivation to go out that much(feels like I want to change the place I am living), I feel a bit sad to meet my friends (like I want to cope on my own and see them when I am happy), and I spend some evenings at home. I try to understand what kind of evenings do I want, but the only answer I get is “shared with the special one”. Have you ever felt that way. Thank you very much!

    • Petra says:

      Hi there, yes I have, many times. I was single from 29 to 36, almost non-stop. And yes I had my dark moments, as well as frustration over why something I want so much isn’t happening. You don’t need to go out if you don’t feel like it, but closing yourself at home won’t help you find a partner. Think about what you’d like to do with other people – where you want to go out, maybe it’s not bars and clubs, but there is still plenty of things you can do and meet new people. Plus, I would encourage you to think about what are the reasons you can’t find a partner for 4 years. There is always something blocking us, if we want something really badly, and we’re taking action, but it’s not happening. If you’re open to discussing it do contact me for a consultation, it can help you find the answers faster.

  4. Cheryl says:

    For the past 6 years I have been going to a friend of a friend’s for Christmas dinner. I called my friend just last week to see if we are doing our “usual” this year. She seemed a little apprehensive then proceeded to tell me that her friend has cut down the number of guests, “There will be Andrew ( her son) then Sara’s mom” In other words I’m not invited.But she’s going to the friend’s ‘ as always. I think it should have been the other person to tell me rather than how I found out .I now wonder just when my friend would have told me. she said “don’t you have other friends so could invite you”? I felt rather insulted . Her b/f proceeded to tell me that he asked her if the invitation hadn’t come yet or would it not be The answer he got was “no it won’t be. She then said to him ” I wouldn’t want to be alone” yet she is seeing me alone. He is really annoyed about the way this was handled. so for the first time in my 67 years of life I will be alone at Christmas.

    • Petra says:

      This is a message for you to assess your friendships. Are these people really friends? How close do you feel to them – because if they don’t care if you’re at the Christmas dinner or not, I’d say they are not that close. Also, think about who else you have in your life you care about, who else cares for you dearly – maybe it’s even time to find some new friends, create your own circle – so you don’t feel dependent on whether a friend of a friend thinks you’re worthy of their company. Take care!

  5. Cheryl says:

    Petra…Thanks! I guess my thoughts were the same as yours, but I likely didn’t want to admit it to myself. My ‘friend’ seems very dependent on her friend..they sometimes work together & always have dinner on Saturday evenings. Regardless of what the other friend has going on (Easter dinners, or anything special), my ‘friend’ is ALWAYS invited. My ‘friend” can’t carry many sentences of conversation without mentioning this other person. Also she claims (to her boyfriend) that she does not play favouritism with her friends. This Christmas is a classic example of favouritism where
    she’ll still go to the other person’s.,thereby leaving me alone for Christmas Day. By her saying “I can’t not go”, tells me
    that she prefers to go there, or she knows full well the other person would interrogate her as to why she wouldn’t be going. I think this year was a message loud & clear to me. The only thing holding me back from walking away right now is the fact that I’m going on holiday with her for 2 weeks in early January. I can’t get out of it because I’ve fully paid, & it would mean I’d lose a lot of money. So, I’m going to go & my mind is made up to have a great time, regardless. Once I’m back home, things will change. I’ve thought of sending her an email expressing my feelings, but won’t do so until
    I’m back home (from the holiday). I also thought of emailing the other person, expressing my disappointment that I found out about Christmas Day from my ‘friend’ & not her (the one inviting). That too won’t be done ’til I’m back home because both do Facebook & I certainly don’t want any animosity while I’m away. What do you think??
    I always thought ‘my friend’ & I were friends, but this shows me I was very wrong. A friend does not see a friend alone
    at Christmas. Also, my friend had said to me (when we talked about Christmas plans) “it hurts my heart” (that I would be alone) yet she chooses to do nothing about it, except continue on to her other friends. She & that other person have been friends for 30-odd years, but still & all, what has transpired is very hurtful. Do you suggest anything else? I’d certainly appreciate your comments about my plans to email. Thanks!!!

  6. Rebecca says:

    I’m 36 and on my own this Xmas, my son is with his father for Xmas as its his turn. I recently had a relationship breakdown with my best friend. As Xmas is getting closer I’m getting more and more upset Xmas on my own

    • Cheryl says:

      Rebecca…I’m sorry you are feeling the way you are. Yes, your son is having Christmas with his father this year, as it’s his turn. Is there any way you can patch things with your best friend? My best friend & I have had disagreements or shall I say, “differences of opinion” but we’re two seperate people, & we WILL have differences of opinion. Unless betrayal
      of some kind took place, is your friendship strong enough or was it strong enough to withstand just about anything?
      Always leave the door open a little when it comes to friends, especially one that means so much to you. In the card I got from my best friend this year she said, “I can’t tell you what you mean to me”…etc.etc.Why not get on the phone, call your friend, & start a discussion. You could be the one to start the patching process. If it doesn’t work, then you know at least you tried. Don’t be afraid to put your hand forward. It may not be slapped. You never know your luck.
      I wish you all the best.

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