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Christmas and the New Year represent, to some people, an ideal time to connect with relatives, to share joy and presents, and to party together. The holiday period can offer the opportunity to break away from mundane routines and to relax, have fun, see your home transformed into a bustling hub of love, and to reflect on the previous year's events.
The holidays don't bring "tidings of comfort and joy" to everyone, however — some people downright dread them. If you suffer from chronic loneliness, this period can feel like a slap in the face. Even if you're not normally lonely, it can hurt to be left alone during a time when seemingly everyone connects with their loved-ones. Finding yourself amidst relatives who don't accept you can also induce a stinging feeling of loneliness and isolation; you don't need to be alone to be lonely. Those who recently lost a loved-one may be stricken with grief during this period.
How do you cope if you're in this boat? And if you're not, how can you spread the joy to someone who may otherwise be hurting during this important time?
Why People Get Lonely During the Holidays
The commonly held idea that more people commit suicide during the period between Thanksgiving and the New Year is, in fact, an urban myth. The idea that the holiday period can inflate feelings of stress, depression, and loneliness is anything but. But why?
When our own lives don't match up to the media ideal of happy families and parties, we can become acutely aware of that fact, even when we are quite happy with our lives the rest of the year. Because Christmas and the New Year are seen as relationship-focused events, it's a period during which we are likely to reflect on the quality of the relationships we have in our lives. And if they're not what we would like them to be, feelings of loneliness can ensue.
Senior citizens are disproportionately affected by loneliness all year round. The UK Campaign to End Loneliness suggests, for instance, that 17 percent of older people in Britain are in touch with their family, friends and neighbors less than once a week, with 11 percent having these social contacts less than once a month. Add to that that 51 percent of UK citizens over 75 live alone, and you get a very bleak picture.
Decreased mobility and illness may make it harder to get together with loved-ones, relatives may be leading busy lives of their own in which the senior seemingly no longer has a place, and the inevitable losses older people have experienced may hurt even more at this time. For seniors who previously enjoyed fulfilling social lives, it can be especially hard to be alone during the holiday period.
Who Else Is Likely To Be Affected?
Anyone who is socially isolated, recently underwent big life changes, or unexpectedly finds themselves alone during the holiday period can be affected by feelings of loneliness during Christmas and the New Year. This can apply to recently widowed or divorced people, singles, those who recently moved to a new area, young adults who have recently left home and haven't found a social circle yet, people who don't have many relatives, and anyone else who isn't having their social needs met during this season.