There’s no miracles on 34th street
The holiday season is a time when people come together, friends host ugly-sweater parties and family steps back up the priority ladder. However, it can also be a time of extreme loneliness for some.
Loneliness can be heightened for those who return home to family and feel like they were probably adopted or switched at birth. Spending time with family can be a blessing or a burden depending on ones birth lottery, finding people to spend time with that you feel connected to is a good way to combat loneliness.
“I think it’s really important to put yourself in situations where you’re likely to connect with people that you have something in common with,” said Teri Lynn Olson, a registered psychologist who works in the student development and counselling department at SAIT.
One thing that makes the season so hard for people who are alone is the overwhelming feeling and pressure that they should be in good, merry company, drinking eggnog and watching holiday movies.
“I think it’s important for people to be able to re-adjust their expectations.”
Loneliness can also be amplified this time of year because of memories associated with certain traditions or rituals. When someone loses, or is separated from, a loved one it can be particularly hard during the holiday season due to past seasonal memories shared with the individual.
“People who have lost someone, over the past year will be acutely aware that the person is not at the dinner table,” said Olson.
Those who are simply unable to return home for the holiday season can find solace in attending events that will give them a sense of community and seasonal cheer.
Olson suggested volunteering as a good way to step out of oneself and consequently ones loneliness.
“Christmas can look like whatever you choose.”
Olson said people tend to have this picture in their head of what the holidays are supposed to look like and it almost never looks like that it may for moments, but not for the entire holiday, in short, “life is not a Christmas movie.”
Social media can escalate the sense of loneliness as people post pictures of their perfect holiday moments, but Olson pointed out “people tend to post good stuff, not the times when there are feeling lonely.”
Loneliness, by nature, is contradictory because everyone feels lonely; this is not a strange one-off phenomenon that anyone is unique in experiencing.
“First of all, connect rather than withdraw […] if you’re invited to something go anyways even if you don’t feel like it,” said Olson.
Over the season, we are all bound to feel lonely, but this can be an opportunity to learn to enjoy your own company and create a sense of belonging within.
“Rather than viewing solitude as a lonely thing, it can be a very peaceful thing.”
Loneliness shouldn’t be equated with being alone, as being in the wrong company can be far lonelier than spending time alone.