In this blog, Helen from PAPYRUS HOPELINEUK reflects on the theme of loneliness at Christmas, drawing on some her own experiences of the festive period in the past.
“Tis the season to be merry!!!”
So we are told. Yet, for some of us Christmas can bring home how lonely we feel and remind us how isolated we are.
As human beings we are not meant to be alone. We are social animals but many of us suffer from loneliness. Loneliness is a personal experience and can mean different things to different people. Generally, it is an unwelcome feeling that arises when our expectations for social relationships and connections are not being met.
We can be isolated but actually not feel lonely, or surrounded by lots of people and feel completely alone.
There will be lots of factors why we may feel lonely, especially if we have been through bereavement, a relationship breakdown, have moved to a new area or suffer from physical or mental health concerns.
Christmas can be a very difficult time for those who are on their own or estranged from family. People often feel that there is a pressure to be happy and we are bombarded with images of smiling couples and close-knit families by the media. We see beautiful homes with wonderful decorations and roaring fires on TV and billboard adverts.
According to a new report, young people feel more lonely than those in later life. A survey conducted by YouGov of more than 2,000 UK adults found that 31 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds said they felt lonely often or all the time, compared to 17 per cent of over 55s.
While writing this it brought back memories of myself feeling lonely at Christmas. I was in my 30s at the time.
I had lost my brother in the September and a relationship had ended. So I was grieving twice over. My parents do not celebrate Christmas which was not an issue for me. My sister was away on holiday and my children where spending time with their dad that day.
I had told people, friends, that I was alone but sadly no-one asked me round, and that was okay – it’s seen as a family thing isn’t it? To be fair I never asked if there was a possibility for me to join them.
I felt so sad and very lonely and unloved that day. So I was prepared to drink my Baileys and have pizza for my Christmas dinner. The day looked bleak and I was even considering just going to bed so it would pass quickly. Luckily a friend did invite me around later that evening so I was not so alone but I could have been like many others who are very alone with no-one remembering them at the last minute.
So it’s important you prepare. See what’s going on in your local community. You could set up an online Christmas day via social media. You could volunteer in a shelter or kitchen. Speak up!!! It’s fine to forget about it if you prefer. The important thing is to do whatever you feel comfortable with. Go out for a walk, switch the TV off. Crank up your favourite music. Anything that is not to do with Christmas. What is important is too look after yourself and remind yourself it is one day.
Remember, feelings of loneliness at are completely normal but if you do find yourself in despair, there is always someone to turn to. PAPYRUS offers a national helpline service, HOPELINEUK, for young people who may be having thoughts of suicide and for anyone who may be worried about a young person who may be struggling.
HOPELINEUK is a confidential helpline which offers practical support and information.