Love in the Mountains: How to handle being alone on Christmas
Love in the Mountains
While many may assume everyone wakes up to a household full of loved ones on Christmas morning, nearly 1 in 4 adults awake to a silent empty home. Chances are if it’s not you, then someone you love and care about is spending this holiday by themselves, home alone.
Perhaps you just had a divorce and the kids are with your ex. Or maybe you couldn’t afford to travel cross-country to be with your family. Maybe it’s been a rough end to the year and it’s simply too hard to reach out. Whatever the situation, loneliness during the holidays is always more difficult to navigate.
Loneliness weighs heavily on the human heart because we were never made to go through life disconnected. Not only does it impact us emotionally, increasing risks for depression, but it also impacts physical health, suppressing the immune system and affecting our cardiovascular system.
Too often, those who need connection most hide away further because it’s just too dang risky. There’s an understandable fear for those who are lonely, of being rejected. On Christmas Day, when you see a world connected to friends and family, the tendency is to close the blinds and not answer your phone. Because if you were to dare reach out and be denied, that pain could be unbearable.
I understand this fear. And fear isn’t the problem. It’s what you do with the fear that is the true issue. By not reaching out and by not taking emotional risks, you are causing harm to yourself. You will only sink further into depression and feel more loneliness.
Show up in the world today
Let’s find small ways to disrupt the lonely pattern, and what better day to start than today. Consider one person you can contact, to openly share that you may not have plans or people to be with. Consider who you feel safer being more vulnerable with. Part of you might anticipate being dismissed and that’s OK. Because that’s what our brain tells us when we’re in a lonely place. But our brain isn’t right all the time.
I need you to also commit to getting out of the house. Show up in the world today. Get out, walk around, make eye contact and wish those around you a “merry Christmas!” Engaging with strangers will lighten the weight of loneliness. Whatever you do, don’t allow this day to pass without prioritizing your own need to connect with others.
And if you’re blessed to be surrounded by those you love, then be grateful. Don’t forget about colleagues, friends, neighbors or family who may not have the same blessing. Call to share wishes of happy holidays or to invite them over after presents have been opened. Look strangers in the eye, passing on a kind smile. They may need that moment of being noticed far more than you could ever imagine.
I wish you all a wonderful and very merry Christmas!
Jessica Heaney is a licensed clinical social worker who knows the relationship struggles of living in the Vail Valley. If you’re a Vail Resorts employee, then your EAP benefits give you and your partner six sessions with Heaney. For more information, visit http://www.jessicaheaney.com. If you want to learn how to date for commitment and how to stop dating the king or queen of first dates, then contact Heaney at Jessica@jessicaheaney.com.
Paul Cuthbertson set out by himself around 3 p.m. Friday from the trailhead that leads up to the Polar Star Inn, according to his father, Mike, but never made it to the popular backcountry hut as a late-spring snowstorm moved in.