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Alone for the Holidays

Posted By Carol L. Hunter PhD, PMHCNS, CNP, Monday, November 28, 2016

I never thought, or at least hoped, that I would ever spend a holiday alone. After all, I had a big family and having 16 at Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner was not that unusual. I loved all of it: the chaos and the noise; the food and table preparations; the distractions and the realization that I needed to stop socializing and start focusing on dinner; the varying ages around the table; the dogs and cats meandering around; the laughter and the familiar silliness I had with my daughters.  I clearly remember one moment in time when all of this was going on and I stood still in the kitchen and thought to myself, “it won’t always be this way; I need to enjoy every minute of this.”

Years went by and life shifted both imperceptibly and radically, but shift it did. I was no longer married and had been traded in for a younger woman. I survived that shock and went on to forge a life for myself alone. Children moved away to distant parts of the globe. I moved several times for my career. I could feel the layers of my happiness peeling off, one by one. And then it happened. My one daughter that lived nearby was invited to her in laws in Philadelphia for the Christmas holidays. My granddaughter was only 4 months old and this would be the first of many flights for her in the coming years.

The first blush of realization was quickly swept from my conscious mind. “Of course you should go,” I declared, “I’ll be fine.” The reality started to sink in and I began to wonder, “what will I do alone?” I was feeling afraid, knowing that I would be entering uncharted waters. After a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that I shouldn’t change a thing. I still put up the Christmas tree and planned on cooking my usual feast, albeit, quite reduced in size. My daughter and her family left a few days before Christmas so I had a few days to soak in my aloneness. I took the dogs out on the trail, practiced my violin, visited some friends and for the first time in a long time, took a nap. I built fires, watched movies, read books and magazines that I hadn’t had a chance to read and took a few bubble baths in candle light. While a part of me missed the commotion, a new part of me welcomed this opportunity to indulge in some soothing activities. I had the thought, “I’m going to get through this OK!”

On Christmas day, I talked to all four of my daughters and then sat down alone, with candles lit, and ate my delightful, but small dinner. As the lights from the tree mesmerized me, memories flashed by in my mind and eventually, I came back to that moment long ago, when I realized that moments of happiness can be fleeting. I could see myself standing in the kitchen amidst the revelry, understanding that full appreciation was in order. But instead of crying, I smiled and before I knew it, my beautiful baby granddaughter was back in my arms

Would I do anything differently today if I had that challenge again? There’d probably be a few motorcycle rides to places I have wanted to visit, like the wolf sanctuary and the hot springs. Maybe I’d get a massage with warmed coconut oil, have breakfast with old friends at our usual hangout and start a new painting. What I’ve realized is that what I do doesn’t matter as long as I nourish my soul and avoid the temptation of giving in to self pity.  Being alone during the holidays has been stigmatized; it’s as if something surely must be wrong with you if you are alone. Don’t fall into that mind trap because it is myth, not reality. All of us at some point in our lives may find ourselves alone and we must adapt and even prosper from the experience in order to function at our mental and emotional best. We can also serve as an inspiration to others, as I hope I am doing in this holiday blog. 

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