ALONENESS AT CHRISTMAS
In our society Christmastime is considered by many as a very important and special time of the year. For some it is because of its religious significance. For many it is the only time of the year they get together with family members and friends. There are societal pressures to celebrate Christmas in particular ways.
However, many people dread Christmastime or, at the very least, find it a big challenge. These include
- people who are isolated or lonely;
- people far from home;
- people who have been bereaved, especially if the bereavement happened around this time of year;
- people with mental health problems or who are disabled or housebound;
- people in poverty;
- people away from their families;
- people dealing with relationship breakdown;
- people with a history of abuse, especially if it relates to family or the time of year;
- people with eating disorders, or acoholism.
Christmas can be a very difficult time for people who are grieving the death of a loved one; the sense of loss can be heightened with the loved one missing from family gatherings or other events. Aloneness with grief can be a big challenge. While others are enjoying themselves the grieving person may feel alone with their painful memories. It is likely to be helpful if such people are included in Christmas family events or gatherings of friends.
Some people struggle at Christmas because their beloved is away working, perhaps interstate or overseas. For example, many army personnel are away at Christmas. Their absence at Christmas can create a sense of loss, and even if the person at home can spend Christmas with relatives or friends they may feel a sense of aloneness with grief. This may be exacerbated if the soldier has been away a long time and has children at home. This can be ameliorated to some extent by means of communication such as mobile phones, emails and “Skype”.
Relationship difficulties and conflict within extended families, blended families and families that have been through separation or divorce can lead to feelings of loss at Christmas. Children of divorced parents can be impacted by difficulties their parents are having in organizing Christmas and school holidays and the parents can feel grief in relation to happier times when everyone was together. Everyone is different when it comes to grief, and each family member can feel aloneness with grief at this time of year.
Estrangements can be painful at Christmas. If a family member has estranged themselves then when the other family members get together for Christmas the person missing at the table may be like “an elephant in the room”. Everyone may have mixed feelings, including the person who has estranged themselves.
Christmas gatherings can bring together people who rarely see each other and who do not have strong loving relationships. This can cause friction or arguments and general tension at a time when people are supposed to be enjoying themselves.
I had a client whose childhood had been very troubled and who had ongoing issues with his parents as an adult. He did not see any of his family at Christmas and felt sad in the lead up to Christmas as he thought about his childhood. He felt a sense of aloneness with grief.
Christmastime can be a period of considerable spending; on gifts, Christmas Eve/Day family meals, lights and other decorations and so on. Not everyone can afford a festive, feasting Christmas. Parents who are unemployed may be not only grieving the loss of a job but also the ability to provide a bountiful Christmas.
The photo above shows a girl reaching out to a homeless man who is no doubt experiencing aloneness in grief at Christmastime.
The organization “mindhealthconnect” suggest ways of managing stress, anxiety and depression at Christmastime. See