Since the essence of Loneliness is that of disconnection, the illusions of Madison Avenue and Currier & Ives images add pain for many this time of the year. No matter the cause, whether it is due to losses, past or present, feeling like an outsider or social shyness to name a few of the reasons, loneliness can become overwhelming during the Holidays.
The pressure to be cheerful; forcing the illusion that everybody else is “happy” or “paired up” is at least annoying in its shallowness and often irritating. This pressure has about the same gravitas as “have a nice day” that gets cackled everywhere, often by cashiers that haven’t looked up once during checkout.
Sometimes people who are incredibly lonely add to their burden by having shame, as if there is something wrong with them. The tendency to think that you are the only one having such feelings blurs reality.
Reality: I find is very different than the illusion, or the false beliefs we live by. For instance:
- Happy: Not so many.
- Paired up: Many are paired-up, but that does not necessarily mean feeling loved and being happy. A woman told me her most intense times of loneliness is when her husband is around pushing for cheerfulness that she cannot feel within, or with him.
- Forgotten: What about all the people out of sight, out of mind and lonely, depressed or in grief over losses, or not having a sense of family. There are multitudes.who are not able to choose what to do about the holidays due to their circumstances.
When you are lonely, you are more vulnerable to allowing the ‘Currier and Ives’ images of the Season to seep in, as if they were real. These kinds of images and memories have the power to stop us in our tracks and we forget that they are static, frozen in time, not messy like real life.
I remember the first Christmas after my divorce, being at the mall and hearing Elvis Presley singing “Blue Christmas.” Already one of the ‘walking-wounded’ trying to do the expected things to provide something close to a Christmas for my two daughters, I was overwhelmed with excruciating loneliness, which I couldn’t bear it. I left.
It was a time in my life when all earlier losses of life came back over me like an umbrella and nothing lifted my spirit. The only way to release the sadness, grief and loneliness that I was feeling was to get into therapy, which helped tremendously. Don’t think for a minute that I consider loneliness a Mental Health problem. Not everybody needs therapy, but I did, as the loss of my marriage, a current grief was complicated with earlier unresolved losses and loneliness. I do indeed recommend psychotherapy if you are feeling stuck or in overwhelm.
I know personally and professionally, that you will be able to see more clearly what to do after the holidays. If you haven’t tackled loneliness yet, don’t give up.
For several years I lead a group for single people called “Single thru the Holidays” that started the Sunday before Thanksgiving and ended the Sunday after New Years. All of our stories were different and also similar. Some people in the group had never married or had recently experienced loss of relationship through divorce or death. We had in common the wanting of a safe place to feel what was real, without forced frivolity. Some wanted to experience the holidays in a non- traditional way, while others just wanted to connect with kindred spirits. Connecting is the key word here. My group was, in essence, a holding space to be ‘all right’ with whatever was causing sadness or loneliness.
Hold space for yourself,with compassion and without judgment. Becoming mindful as to the reason for your loneliness by connecting to the inner, deeper part of yourself. .Any step forward to connect with others especially kindred spirits, not necessarily family, will also start your process.
Face the loneliness instead of trying to avoid it with busyness, workaholism, shopping or drinking and similar activities. Avoid getting caught up in being so busy that you don’t allow yourself to feel. I know people who do that very thing and meanwhile they push their pain down, making it harder to release. What we resist persists. It doesn’t go away, just harder to get to for healing purposes.
Take time to reflect on the patterns that have you stuck and what might be the best strategy for you to face your loneliness, the sooner the better. The only way out of loneliness or any obstacle that keeps us stuck is to risk releasing the fear. When we face and start releasing the fears, that very intention, determination and action creates more courage, to go through, not around the pain, in order to free up.
When I say through, I do not mean by pushing and shoving, or being harsh with yourself. Such action which will build up more resistance to the possibility of change.
Reflect and know that the obstacle of loneliness in your life has meaning. We all have obstacles that have to honored and worked through in order to accept our worthiness to have a full and abundant life. Mine may be different than yours, but have them I do, until I understand the meaning and release the power that they have over me
Allow your loneliness time
To dissolve the shell of dross
That had closed around you;
Choose in this severe silence
To hear the one true voice
Your rushed life fears,
Cradle yourself like a child
Learning to trust what emerges,
So that gradually
You may come to know
The glimmer of springtime. (John O’ Donohue)
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