• Few or No Friends

Reader Wisdom: On loneliness over the holidays

December 8, 2015 | By | 20 Replies Continue Reading

On a thread called “Why Would Someone Have No Friends?,” a reader commented that she felt lonely and isolated over the holidays. Many people feel that way at this time of year. She wrote:

…I don’t have a family. No parents, no siblings. None. My cousins are all over the world, and since we were children, we were not encouraged to be close; so even my extended family is non-existent.

I feel handicapped. I’m surrounded by people saving money to buy presents for their whole family, and I have nobody. I normally travel on my own during holidays to be away from my household, and my landlord and their friends know – but people doesn’t really care, because they have they own family.

[You can read her letter in its entirety on the blog; it was posted on December 1, 2015.] 

A caring and wise reader took the time to share how she copes with loneliness over the holidays. I wanted to share her response more widely…

I never post to any online sites and won’t be posting again, however, I read your comment and hoped that maybe I could help you in some way by sharing what’s worked for me.

I would recommend that you try to focus not on what you don’t have but rather on what you do – your health, job etc. – and to continue to involve yourself in groups/activities that will allow you to be around people you enjoy. Perhaps try to look at this time in your life as a chance to improve yourself and achieve any personal goals that you maybe didn’t have time for earlier in life, for life is short and will go by faster than you realize.

Try new things you always wanted to try but never had the time to. Maybe now is a good time to get your own place if you can, or move to a new one for a change. Don’t spend the rest of your life focused on what you don’t have. You might just find that if you work on things you enjoy accomplishing, the “energy” that you give off to others may become more positive and you might be able to find friends more easily.

I’m 42 and share your insecurity about family despite having parents and a brother. In my case, my parents divorced when I was younger. I learned very quickly after the divorce was finalized that my parents were no longer that interested in being involved with my brother and I. It was a particularly dysfunctional family/divorce and we are all very much estranged. Nothing is fixable with this situation – I tried for many years and then finally accepted this harsh reality.

So I understand what you mean when you say you feel as if you have no one, especially during the holidays, while everyone else “seems” to be happily celebrating. Holidays, if I let them, still feel as though someone is rubbing salt in the wound. New Year’s is the worst, as it is the anniversary of my parents’ separation and both are still alive, enjoying the children from their second marriages.

Family was really important to me, so though it’s been over 25 years now, it’s still stings if I let it. Just know that you are not alone in your feeling. Also, try not to feel too self-conscious about your family circumstances, as that is what you were handed in life and not what you chose. You don’t owe people any explanation about your family situation so don’t feel the need to tell them about it. However, if you happen to get stuck discussing the topic always remember that the people that judge you negatively, based on your family situation alone, are not people you want for friends.

Often, it’s very easy to feel as if everyone around you is happily celebrating the holidays and you’re the only one that’s not. Popular media also encourages this idea. However, the more you observe the world around you, the more you can see that many people are lonely these days, even if they appear to have friends. The only way I was able to realize this was by learning that I needed to focus less on myself and more on the world around me.

As a result, what I decided to do was to always try to get involved/volunteer during the holidays, at a place where the people are less fortunate than me. Whenever I start to feel isolated/alone, this approach really helps. This Christmas, I’ve chosen to pack hampers for the local charity. It’s an activity that, again, reminds me of what I have rather than what I don’t and allows me to help others in the process—a win-win all around.

This is the strategy that I’ve used to help deal with those feelings of loneliness over the years and so far it has really worked. I would encourage you to try it as well, as usually, you’ll also get to meet some really great people in the process, some of whom may even turn into great friends. Broaden your outlook on whom you’d be willing to accept as a friend. Maybe you’ve been too specific in your expectations or where you’ve been looking.

Good luck with everything. Remember, we are all ultimately alone in life no matter whom we are surrounded with. Embrace some of your loneliness, as that is a normal part of life but don’t let the rest get in the way of finding happiness.


Have other readers here found ways to make the holidays less lonely or to make them less lonely for others?

Please share some of your advice/tips below. 

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Category: HAVING NO FRIENDS

Comments (20)

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  1. Sandy says:

    It’s not just the he holidays that make you feel lonely, it can be everyday. I am an only child was adopted my parents just passed away. I’m married and still lonely. My kids are grown an live elsewhere and busy with their jobs. So we never see or talk to each other. I’m looking for friends to get together and have coffee conversation. Or whatever comes up. Thinking about moving but don’t know if that’s the answer. (To another state). What I’m finding at my age everyone is to busy to have time for others. And some are raising grandchildren so they can’t get out and be free. Looking for some friendship who is in the same predicament as me.

  2. Ellen says:

    I didn’t write the original post but could have. Thank you for all the wonderful, caring responses.

  3. anonymous says:

    I have been alone most of my life and while others wiew me as an oddball, I like my own company. IF I bought into the media holiday message and when comparing my life to the media messages any one would get depressed. The holiday is a 24 hour period. The hype is all the programmed preparation prior to the actual day. I am asked frequently what my holiday plans are. I just say relax. This holiday I worked overtime because there was an opportunity. I am viewed as odd because I choose to take advantage of a situation offered to me. I really like the time away from work and have time off. I have specific financial goals that are more important to me than the comments of casual associates who have their own opinions no matter what my choices are. People are always telling me things about me they think are true, I do not give any more information away than I feel comfortable. My christmas visitor was a Drug dealing neighbor who kept knocking on my front door attempting to buy or sell me drugs. She told me someone told her the person who lived with me sold drugs. I was told by another neighbor going to my car my husband boyfriend needed to talk to him. I do not tell people I live alone or do not sell drugs. I only gave a neighbor a ride to grocery store or laundry mat while I was going that way. I never met or talked with those other people who live at the apartment building.Be true to yourself..you own noone any explanation for your choices….

  4. Carol says:

    Unfortunately, having no family or even if you have family but not much of a bond for good reasons, this can’t be fixed. I tried, believe me. Please take comfort in that you are very much not alone in having no family. I have mourned not having family in the sense I yearned for. It’s hard. But at a certain point you realize there are things you cannot change in life. It doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally still mourn this or imagine how life would have been if this had been different. But now these moments are so much less. Why not open up to other possibilities that may fill your life? It won’t replace what you miss but life is more than family bonds. Why not reconnect with cousins and see if there’s something in common if that excites you … don’t have your hopes high up … why not take am organized trip with a group during holidays instead of staying at home alone. If you’re single why not open yourself up to the possibility of finding the love of your life? I also know some people with little family who volunteer during the holidays and give to others who are in need (and have no family to turn to). The more we focus on what’s lacking in our lives the bigger it becomes. But I could only feel that once I mourned what I never had.

  5. raven says:

    Im 48 and have a teenage son divorced..and live in fl..im having a hard time making friends..I have. Great job..live on my own..either people are married with small kids or retired..and are almost 10 years older than me..there no in between. Tried sites..nothing works..dont like the holidays..either

    • Suzanne says:

      I’m in the same boat as you, same age too and live in FL. Going to try to get involved in activities etc. It’s harder to make friends when you are older. I wish I could go back in time and had focused more n cultivating friendships rather than only focusing on relationships with guys. But as they say, can’t change the past and best to not think negatively on the present, but keep persistent and things will change.

  6. Leena says:

    I really liked the reply and the care & compassion behind the words. I am very much in the same situation and unlike how the world was 20 years back today people hardly talk to each other wherever you meet them so making & retaining friends is hard or rather impossible.

    Like the writers stated end of the day we are all alone and we leave this earth alone so better to get used to loneliness and appreciate what we have rather than focus on the have-nots

    All said and done life is much better and happy with companionship & shared laughter but life keeps changing and we just have to hope for better days ahead.

  7. Niecy says:

    The ‘do some charity work’ suggestion is over-used and not useful in the communities where I have lived. In Baltimore, the soup kitchen had too many people, falling over each other, when my Mom tried to volunteer. In my state, there are background checks with fingerprints for many volunteer slots, and Habitat builds and the like are not active over the holidays.
    Of course there is nothing wrong with the idea of helping. I have not seen it work and don’t think it’s a great fallback.
    I like the idea of a solo trip, if funds allow. Even a day trip to the beach, desert or whatever is close by for this. Just one or two nights in a hotel or state park lodge can be a refreshing change of pace.
    I stopped accepting invites where I am odd woman out at someone else’s large family gathering. A few too many “we love to invite strays!” comments. I wish them well, but a bike ride, bubble bath, nice meal at home and Netflix sometimes help me pass holidays on my own.
    Peace out –

    • Meorge says:

      I agree that the suggestion of doing charity work is overused and not helpful. When people are sad during the holidays, they are sad because they would like to be with real or imagined loved ones. No one wants to spend the holiday working with strangers just because it’s a good cause. I also agree that it is not fun to be at someone else’s family gathering. It feels weird being in on their pastimes and it’s annoying listening to their stupid arguments. Not to mention eating their bad cooking… LOL What has worked best for me is to appreciate even more the company of my real family: my pets. I watch TV, do crafts, eat good food, and have changed my expectations of what a holiday should be.

    • Jo says:

      You are spot on in many points. Volunteering is tough. Sometimes you have to sign up weeks in advance and commit fully, leaving no flexibility. I once had to turn down an invite I would have enjoyed because I was committed to volunteering months earlier. Other times I wanted to volunteer but they were full. Nothing like standing around and feeling left out at charity events.

  8. Tracy says:

    life is full of movement and times of standing still. The danger in reflection is when it takes us to a negative state and we question our worth compared to others. There are many people with family who are lonely and those without family who are lonely. It can be terrible to be in a family where there is rejection and strife. Just as it can be sad to be without people. But we always have a choice how to look at things and where to draw our strength from. I have a family in England. They are blood relatives but the experience for me with them is always one of pain and struggle. I have an immediate family at home. We love each other dearly. I go to a church but dont have any relationships that have spawned from it. I know what it’s like to be surrounded by people and yet unnoticed. In the end, I have decided that the absence of people or not is not what causes me to feel lonely. It is the condition of response I have to what I find myself in. I treat myself well, the way I want to be treated. I don’t look to others for my validation. I don’t let what others do or don’t do affect my internal well being. Infact, despite what others may do, I have learnt to be content with myself. I extend outwards when it seems right. I help others, give of my time, input into discussion and withdraw when I need a break. I will serve or not depending on what needs to come 1st and will put on my own mask before assisting someone else so to speak. Actually I don’t believe what we give out to others always comes back to us. But the willingness not to let that outcome dictate my well being has been truly beneficial.

    • Kathy says:

      Tracy thanks for your words I really needed to read this today as feeling very insecure about my friendships at the moment and this has helped reverse the negative thoughts

  9. Robin says:

    I dont even no why im saying any thing on this post.only that it came to me while im sitting wondering what to do.im 55 yr old women.i use to be very strong.i raised 5 chidren alone worked 80 hrs or more a wk.i love my children.i thought i was a good mom.but life has just about killed me my children are grown.i am on disability my only friend my sister died suddenly last month.my kid are sick of my depression and being sick all the time.my only wish whould be there happness they have all gone through so much sadness .we will not be celabrating the holidays again this yr.we havnt since my 8 yr old granddaughter passed away of cancer.its my family has given up on life.i need to go back to the hosp.we need to move so im trying to find a place to live.im IM LOST!!!

    • Ros says:

      Hi Robin
      I just wanted to say hello and also how sorry I am to hear how much you’ve been through and how much you’re suffering.
      I’m afraid I don’t have any wise words to help you, but your post broke my heart and I needed to let you know that I’m thinking of you. A few years ago I too was at rock bottom and I posted something similar to yours (on a different website). Some random person replied to me and sent me love and best wishes…..just knowing that my tiny voice shouting into the wind had been heard meant the world to me. So, I want to send YOU love and best wishes. If you are able to post again, to tell us how you’re doing, I’d love to hear from you. Xxxxxxx

    • Sandria Lee says:

      Have you considered joining a church community–especially one that has small group gatherings. It is a great way to meet friends that help each other grow not only socially but spiritually as well.

      Sandria

  10. Tanja says:

    It is so sad to feel this way over the holidays. I am being completely honest and if my words do not come out right, I am sorry. But, what helps me at times is when I know I am not alone in this feeling. I read the other day an article about a single mother who posted an advertisement on craigslist, asking to be invited to people’s homes over the holidays because her son is 3 and she has no other family. It would be just her and her three year old. Her letter on craigslist was extremely positive and so genuinely honest. She felt she would have a difficult time to entertain her son and explain why it would be just the two of them. She was hoping people who loved children could help her show her son a good time and hopefully become friends. The outpouring of responses was overwhelming and everyday over the holidays, they now have somewhere to go.

    For me, I am lucky, I have a twin sister and her family close by and I have my family, so every Christmas it is the 8 of us. But, 4 yrs ago, my dad was hit by a drunk driver and we spent that christmas in ICU. Then, he passed away from his injuries. I was pregnant at the time and two weeks later, I gave birth to a daughter. So, every christmas, we tell stories of my dad to his grandchildren. I feel lucky that my dad knew I was going to have a girl and he knew what her name would be. But, for some reason every christmas, in spite of all this, I still feel lonely around this time and grateful all at the same time.

    When you feel down and lonely, it is very difficult to hear (for me) someone who does not really know me to say, focus on the positive and what you do have. I know they mean well. What they do not see is that I can be focusing on that at the same time and still feel down. There is no quick fix. I suppose at that time, I would like to hear someone validate my feelings and say, yeah Christmas is a lonely time for a lot of people, then give examples of people and let me know that somehow I am not alone in my loneliness. After my feelings have been validated and I heard some stories of other people’s experiences as well, then, throw in some solutions such as: go to craigslist, put out an ad, or invite me out to dinner or coffeee or something. One year, I remember an exchange university student did not have anyone over the holidays and felt lonely. So she went to the internet and asked everyone who felt lonely to write to her and her blog. She got tons of responses. Then she thought, since we are all lonely, let us all be lonely together. She asked on the blog if people could donate some money and they could rent a hall and have a christmas party all together and meet. Some churches agreed to help. I am not religious though, but people brought food, people brought generic gifts to some of the people they formed a connection with through that blog and would meet for the first time. It was beautiful!!! I think this was two years ago and I saw it on cbc news.

    Those are positive stories and perhaps it is something you could try. I know it sucks to feel this way………

  11. Sandra says:

    Thank you, Irene, for posting this caring and thoughtful response as well as the original letter. Both are reminders — for all of us — that not everyone is having a “Norman Rockwell Christmas” with a great big happy family gathered around a big table. But the ads on television and in magazines continue to promote this sort of holiday image, and sometimes they make us feel guilty because we just can’t join the party.

    My own family is small (I’m an only child and have few cousins.) On the other hand, my husband comes from a large family of siblings, all of whom are emotionally distant, competitive, and not close to one another. Holiday gatherings with them feel uncomfortable and forced, and my husband and I cannot wait for them to be over. At times like that, I recall that bigger isn’t always better and that families come in all shapes and sizes. And just because you’re related to someone doesn’t mean you have a relationship.

    All in all, I’ve learned over the years to expand my definition of “family” to include my friends and neighbors. Many of them are going through the same holiday blues mentioned in both of these posts, and we have learned that “community” is a saving grace at holiday time.

    As others have suggested, I would advise you to get involved in a local group. Service organizations are always looking for help during the holidays, since there are so many needy families with kids out there. You could get into the spirit by helping with the delivery food and gifts to those in need, collecting money for the Salvation Army, or simply inviting a few of your neighbors or friends to your home for tea and holiday cookies.
    Remember that friends are a family, a family you choose. How wonderful is that?

  12. Rachel says:

    Such a loving and caring response. Sometimes life and family isnt always as it appears. Most of my feelings of being close to people are people other then family. Alot of families end in divorce. And as children we are force to choose a side. Or ultimately accept a horrible new spouse a parent has chosen to Marry that eventually distroys a family unit. I find my best company to be around strangers and a few friends. No one is judging you or putting you down or competing with you or like you said the thought of having to explain our disfunctional family is truly degrading and embarrassing. I have a sister whom is always in competition with me and we Havent spoken in 4 years she has a bad habit of pointing out my flaws and a few bad choices i have made. My Dad married a real family unit destroyer. The list can go on. But is so negative to dwell on family relationships that are broken and with all my heart have tried to repair time and time again. So i too feel lonely at holidays. And am Sad my family is so broken. Its my depressing time of year would like to Skip all together. But i have lots to be thankful for. And that saying “Family isnt always blood…… I Wish you a lovely holiday, and you are not alone on your family. We learn to accept what we can not change, let it bring us all Peace and warmth from those that are in our life that want to be. It makes life so much better.

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