By Gwenn Voelckers
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the winter solstice, the holidays can be anything but merry if you are newly divorced or widowed. I know I dreaded the month of December after my divorce. That was until I made a deliberate decision to fight the Bah Humbugs and instead embrace good tidings and joy.
Inspired by the holiday favorite, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” I offer the following 12 tips to help those who live alone rediscover some meaning and merriment this time of year.
1. Slow down. Better yet, stop what you’re doing altogether. Take a few moments to ask yourself what the holidays really mean to you. Rebirth? Hope? Peace and love? Generosity and goodwill? Revisit your most deeply held beliefs about the season and make a conscious decision to participate in the holiday rituals that align with your values and spiritual underpinnings.
2. Be realistic and give yourself a break. For those who live alone, some degree of loneliness can be considered normal during the holidays. It’s a good time to remember that feelings of loneliness aren’t terminal, nor are they a “state of being” reserved for single people.
Loneliness has very little to do with being alone. It has everything to do with your state of mind. Now’s a good time to remind yourself that your happiness is in your hands, and that there are positive, healthy steps you can take to avoid the chill of loneliness.
3. Create new holiday traditions, especially if you’re bemoaning the loss of irretrievable traditions of a “past life.” Consider instituting your very own signature tradition of helping others. When you give of yourself, you reap two big rewards: First, you’ll develop connections with people who share your spirit of giving and second, you’ll nurture your soul. Volunteering, especially this time of year, can be as fulfilling as it is uplifting.
4. On that note, if volunteering doesn’t fit into your schedule, bake some holiday goodies for your colleagues at work or leave a little something on a neighbor’s doorstep. When you are thinking about and doing for others, you get outside yourself and feel less lonely — more a part of the world and of this season of giving.
5. Be the instigator. Identify a holiday concert or event you’d like to attend and invite family or friends to join you. Take on the role of social secretary and you’ll gradually feel your holidays and social life becoming more active and interesting.
6. Decorate your home or apartment. Do it for you. It will help put you in the spirit of the season. Hang a wreath on your door. Accent your mantel. Bring the holidays inside your home and you’ll feel its essence inside your heart.
7. Invite people over. It will give you an incentive to decorate, if you don’t feel motivated to do it for yourself. No need to plan a party or go overboard. Just having a few friends over for brunch or to watch a holiday special on TV can lift your spirits (and theirs).
8. Send holiday cards. Take this occasion to say “hello” and make connections. I love getting an unexpected card from a long-lost friend, and I delight in tracking down and sending out season’s greetings to those who might be surprised to hear from me. Sure enough, good things come from reaching out to others. I encourage you to address a few envelopes this season.
9. Include yourself on your gift list and spoil yourself with comfort. Read a best-seller by the fire. Schedule a massage. Treat yourself to that luxurious bathrobe you’ve admired for weeks.
10. Welcome children into your home. Children add a wonderful dimension to the holidays. Host a cookie party or otherwise put yourself with children. Their silliness, curiosity and wonder will add to your joy this season.
11. Let go of the notion that you need to be married or in a romantic relationship to enjoy the holidays. Life is all about personal connections, and there are plenty to be found in friends, neighbors, colleagues, even people you meet in passing.
12. No final tip. No “drummers drumming.” Just my warmest wishes to all of you who live alone. Have yourself a merry little “whatever” and enjoy the season to the fullest.
You have a choice. Choose to be with people rather than isolate. Choose to appreciate what you have rather than focus on what you’re missing. I promise you this: Embrace even half of the tips above and you will find more joy this season. Cheers!
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of “Live Alone and Thrive,” empowerment workshops for women held throughout the year in Mendon. For information or to contact Voelckers, call 585-624-7887 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.