- People who are estranged should try and become more proactive
- Those who have lost loved ones should try to do something to make them feel that they are still alive
- Therapy is always a good option
Holidays are all about being with your loved ones and enjoy each other’s presence.
But that doesn’t mean everyone gets to be happy during this season. There are people out there who have been estranged from their families and even worse, there are those who have lost friends and families.
Beatrice Tauber Prior, PsyD, clinical psychologist, says that Christmas can bring loneliness to those who have lost loved ones and to those who have cut ties with people with who they had previous relationships.
“The holidays can be a sad reminder of the family and friends who are no longer with us, or the friends and family we never had and never will have.”
Prior says that there are many people who come to her for consultation when the Christmas season comes.
“In fact, my practice becomes even busier during the holidays with people who are coping with loss.”
Psychotherapist Janet Zinn, LCSW, told Healthline that all the things that happen during the holidays remind these people of what they can’t do or have which makes them lonely instead of happy.
“The myth of the holidays is that it is a happy, celebratory time, so not feeling happy, going through grief, can feel particularly lonely.”
People who are experiencing estrangement also find loneliness during the holidays.
The University of Cambridge did a study that involved 800 respondents and concluded that 40% of them went through estrangement at some point in their lives.
Prior says that there are two kinds of estrangement.
“Family estrangement needs to be distinguished between family members who have no contact at all (physical estrangement) and those whose contact is infrequent and conflictual when they are in contact (emotional estrangement).”
Zinn also says that having different political views also causes problems.
“Currently, political differences have split family members and the arguments are heated on all ends.”
Other kinds of differences can also cause families to split.
“There are so many reasons, like sexual or gender identities that are not embraced by family members, religious differences, substance abuse that tears families apart, money or financial issues, siding with a parent during separations or divorce.”
It is inevitable that people will be posting photos of their families on social media, which can make estrangement worse for those who are experiencing it, says Prior.
“Looking at social media during the holidays can make family estrangement even harder to deal with.”
She advises people to get off the net and start focusing on significant people in their lives.
“Rather than spending more time on the internet, make sure to spend time face to face with those you care about, The face-to-face interaction will increase the feel-good hormones called endorphins.”
Zinn says that taking a break from social media is good but it is not enough. She urges people to do things such as volunteering at animal shelters or focusing on self-care.
“Family members who have experienced loss from death or estrangement can create a new holiday story.”
For those who have lost loved ones, they can do something to make them feel like those that are deceased are still with them, such as lighting a candle or talking about them. But as much as possible avoid talking about what you do during the holidays.
“Try not to let others tell you how to spend your holiday.”
Prior says that people can invite friends over to hang out or go to holiday-themed events.
“Neuroscientists have shown that proactivity works against sadness and even depression because it helps the brain make connections between all the moving parts of the day to come up with a streamlined plan.”
This can reduce anxiety since proactivity can give people a sense of self-control.
“You will feel accomplished rather than hyper-reactive.”
Both Zinn and Prior agree that people shouldn’t deal with this problem alone, and should seek therapy if they can afford it, if not, they can always go to religious communities for help.
“There are plenty of therapists available and we usually keep a spot open during the holidays, or can refer you to someone who is available.
“Find loss and bereavement groups, or other groups online. Reach out to those who will listen without judgment. Give yourself latitude. This is a stressful time, and each person experiences and lives through loss in their own way,” Zinn concluded.