‘Tis the season… for moping around the house like the Grinch.
The holidays can be an emotionally conflicting time of year for someone who is going through a breakup. We’re bombarded by Hallmark movies with cheery families and happy endings, all the while feeling like we’re falling apart on the inside.
I know what it’s like to feel so incredibly lonely during the holiday season. Up until my divorce, I had never truly experienced loneliness. Because I’m the youngest of 5 children, and had met my (now) ex-husband at age 16, being alone for me was rare.
But during my divorce, loneliness came over me like a heavy, itchy blanket. I remember a specific Friday night watching a movie by myself and bursting into tears. In the past, I loved movie night, but now all I felt was an emptiness. It felt dark, depressing, and completely foreign.
As much despair as you might feel, I want to encourage you to focus on the choices you do have that will make the holidays more bearable. One thing you should not do is nothing. Going into the holidays unprepared will likely leave you feeling anxious and feeling victimized.
Here are nine things you can do to begin to manage and alleviate loneliness in your life during the holiday season:
1. Accept the feeling as it comes. Going through my own divorce taught me that the feeling of loneliness can’t be avoided. I couldn’t try to run away from it, go under it, over it, or around it. The only way out is through.
2. Realize that all feelings are transient. This feeling of loneliness is uncomfortable, but it won’t last forever. Once you can accept that, it becomes easier to deal with.
3. Identify what triggers you. Do you plunge into despair on Friday nights with no plans? Or does your heart sink into your stomach when you walk by a coffee shop filled with nostalgic memories? When we can identify our specific triggers, we can start to avoid them. Or create new memories there with friends or family.
3. Take action. These heavy emotions take a toll on our bodies, so I know you probably feel pretty tired and run down. But we can’t let ourselves be victims – we have to take action towards something. This could be texting a friend to say hi, setting up a lunch date, or joining MeetUp to make new friends and try a new activity. If the holidays are coming up and you haven’t received an invite anywhere, why not invite a few friends over (or even invite yourself to one of their gatherings)?
4. Check in with your church to see what small groups they offer. Even if you don’t feel like going, you’ll probably be glad you did. This is one of those times we need to exercise discipline because it’s good for us.
5. Use social media mindfully. Social media can either be great for connecting with others you haven’t heard from in a while, or it can make you feel worse when you start comparing yourself to everyone else’s highlight reel of their lives. Recognize if social media is beneficial or harmful to you personally, and act accordingly.
6. Pay attention to how to talk to yourself. Do you find yourself thinking things like, “I’ll be alone forever”, “nobody wants to be around me”, or “I have no friends?” Try examining those thoughts through the lens of Jesus. Is that really how you’re talking about His most precious creation?
7. Don’t let yourself get bored. When you have nothing to do, it becomes easy to ruminate. There is always something to do, even if it’s cleaning out your silverware drawer. I would be surprised if you didn’t have a list of iems that you’ve been putting off for a long time. Well, friend, now is the time to get it done.
8. Try to plan activities in the evening. People usually feel the most lonely when the sun goes down. The day is over and the evening activities like preparing and eating dinner, hanging out, and relaxing usually begin. Consider inviting friends over for dinner rather than lunch or coffee. Go to an evening fitness class. Even going grocery shopping can help curb that evening-time loneliness.
9. Let your favorite holiday movie be your friend for the evening. Put on your favorite nostalgic movie for background chatter while you do a chore, take a bath, or paint your nails. Enjoy your own company and be your own best friend.
Finally, as you make your way through your loneliness, remember that you do have to take action in order to move forward. Don’t just read this blog and then set it aside to return to your pity party. No matter how small the action you take is, do something. Take 5 minutes right now to take a step on the list above. Then send me a message with what you did so I can encourage you!
Are you considering, in the midst of, or post-divorce and struggling to heal? Check out RISEilient, the divorce recovery resource I created that’s full of tools and advice to help you heal and give you hope during and after divorce.