When You’re Alone at the Holidays
Christmas is all about family, holiday traditions, celebrating with the kids, seeing the wonder and magic in their faces. But this year there is no one bursting into your bedroom pre-dawn, no squeals of excitement at the stockings and presents under the tree, no ripping of wrapping paper and tossing of bows, or happily playing with the box the present came in. You are alone at the holidays.
Will it just be a day of staring through your tears at the Christmas tree? If you even get out of bed at all? How can you possibly survive and get through it? Can we just skip from Thanksgiving right into the new year (and right over winter while we’re at it please…)?
My First “Alone” Christmas
My first Christmas as a single mom, my boys were with their father, and I was by myself, alone at the holidays. Our custody schedule follows our shift work schedule, not regular weeks, nor the traditional sharing of important holidays. On the surface, this works out better for our family, since we each have the boys when we are on our respective days off. Two nights a week there is overlap, but this is solved by the boys spending time at Grandma’s. They love her, she spoils them rotten, and I don’t have to worry about finding quality overnight babysitting. Win-win for all!
But it also means holidays are dictated by the schedule. Sometimes two years in a row I won’t get my kids for Christmas.
Sure, I am working, which usually means a relaxed, food-filled day or night with co-workers, visits from family, fire chiefs and even the mayor some years! We cross fingers that the phones don’t ring, or that the worst calls we get are for burnt turkeys.
But on those years, when my shift was over, I head home to a dark, quiet, empty house. I snap on the tree lights, stare at the unopened presents but it’s pretty easy in that moment to let the sadness, anger, and depression set in.
How To Make It Through
The holidays doesn’t have to be a time you dread. Here are 5 strategies I have used over the “alone” years to not only keep myself out of that dark spiral, but even (gasp!) look forward to it.
1. Be Prepared
Don’t leave it to the last minute. Take some time ahead of the holiday season to think about your situation. Particularly if it is your first time alone, know that you will experience all kinds of emotions…sadness, loss, anger, resentment, jealousy, even fear. Make room for those feelings but don’t let them take over. It won’t be the same as years past. It will be different. Set realistic expectations.
2. Have a plan
If the idea of being alone is overwhelming, make plans to spend time with family and friends. Look for others who will be alone and plan a get-together. Invite yourself if you have to! Volunteer with a charity that helps those in need. In past years, I have offered to stay late or come in early for co-workers, allowing them extra time with their families.
3. Pamper Yourself
Being alone means YOU get to choose how YOU want to celebrate (or not). You get to put yourself first, which might be a welcome change from the daily single parent grind! Plan a day full of your favourite things. What would really make YOU happy? Cozying up to the fire with a chick-flick or a good book you haven’t had time to read because of the kids? Cooking grown-up food that your kids would turn up their noses at? A glass (or two) of fine wine? Partying with friends? Sleeping in on Christmas morning? Do that!
4. Make new traditions
Think back to the time before you had kids, what holiday traditions really made you happy? Explore some new ideas that could wind up as your new traditions! Plan to share some with your kids on their return.
If you have a few days alone, and your finances allow, plan a trip away! Being away from the familiar might be the best prescription for fighting the loneliness.
If this year you find yourself without your kids, alone at the holidays, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Yes, you will miss those sweet faces, but they will be home soon. And remember… Christmas isn’t a date on the calendar. It’s the magic of having your family together, celebrating in your own way, on your schedule.