Jess Bacon investigates the sad and lonely reality many face on December 25th
Christmas can be a time full of joy when you’re surrounded by the ones you love. But as the years go by, friends and family move away or pass on and Christmas can become a time of sorrow and isolation for some. After all, is there anything worse than eating alone on Christmas day?
The media is saturated with festive adverts of large tables brimming with happy people enjoying a lavish meal together. However, this isn’t always the case. Christmas can feel like an exclusive celebration for those who have loved ones to share it with. Sadly, it can isolate those who don’t have a seat at a table.
Perhaps you’ve had a recent loss, a relationship breakdown, or your family and friends live overseas have moved away and there’s the possibility that you’ll be spending Christmas alone. At this time of year more than ever, the most vulnerable to loneliness are the elderly.
An increasing problem
Age UK states that there are 1.4 million chronically lonely older people in England. The elderly struggle to travel, leave the house or may have lost everyone they love. What do they do for Christmas?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines loneliness as ‘the want of society or company; the condition of being alone or solitary; solitariness, loneness’. Sadly, the feeling of loneliness can occur even when you’re surrounded by people, as you can feel disconnected and out of touch with those around you.
Over the past few years the scale of the loneliness epidemic has been brought into the media. Students are lonely, the elderly are lonely, the middle-aged are lonely; it effects all of us. Social media has influenced this feeling as the younger generation turn to their phones for validation and support. As a result, they neglect the friends, family and loved ones around them as they scroll through their phones.
Loneliness is also entwined with depression; as you feel isolated from others you begin to distance yourself, to stop putting yourself out there as well, who is there to go out with? It’s a vicious cycle to fall into and an even harder one to get out of alone.
What to do about it
If you are lonely, as we all are sometimes, I’d recommend asking someone for coffee perhaps on your lunch break, after work, or just one afternoon somewhere local to you both. There’s nothing embarrassing about going for a coffee is there? If you don’t want to talk to them about your loneliness, then you don’t have to, but inviting someone for a drink is a great way to get yourself out of the house and engaging with others.
Loneliness encourages loneliness; when you feel as though you have nobody to socialise with, often you stop reaching out to people. This sad head space tells you there is nobody to reach out to. Therefore, you stay in a cycle of feeling alone It’s important to be aware of those around you who could feel isolated, or vulnerable which comes hand in hand with depression.
Over the festive period make an effort to pop in on your neighbors if they live alone, don’t drive or are unsteady on their feet. Take a cake, packet of biscuits or something to drop round to them to let them know you’re thinking of them.
Helping those around you
Another important thing to do is look out for community events in your area to attend with your elderly neighbours. Go to a Christmas carol concert or gatherings supported by charities in churches or village halls.
Of course, if you can afford to add another seat at your Christmas lunch, then invite someone lonely round. Or, even offer a mince pie in the afternoon. The smallest gesture makes a significant impact on those who feel alone in the world, as it reminds them that someone cares.
Equally, try to ensure no one is isolated at the table this Christmas. Perhaps your older relatives don’t have phones or social accounts to check and therefore are left without much to say or do on Christmas day. Why don’t you have a no phones at the table? That way no one is left out or socially isolated. Sometimes you can feel loneliest when you’re surrounded by people you could but can’t connect with.
No one should feel alone, least of all at Christmas. Your kindness, attention and time could make an enormous difference to someone vulnerable at this time of year.
For more from Jess, visit jessicakatie.com