Alone for the holidays? Then this is for you

Whether this is your first holiday alone, or your twentieth, it’s likely you will experience uncomfortable feelings, especially if you attempt to follow the same traditions and typical activities as you celebrated with others.

Your feelings depend on your why

If the reason for your solitude has to do with estrangement or death, you might be left with a profound sense of loss and isolation. What could have been can never be again. Know that your feelings are completely normal – whatever they are: grief, anger, loss, or other.

If holidays with others are generally energy zapping because you are highly sensitive person or introverted, you might feel a mixture relief and sadness. You may feel relieved you won’t be around groups of people, and you may experience sadness at missing people anyway. You may even have anger at yourself or others that you feel somehow “different.” Again, these feelings and any others, are normal and to be expected.

Even if you are separated from others during the holidays for a positive reason – such as a new baby or a long awaited move to a dream location – you will still experience some feelings you may not expect, such as boredom or disappointment, if your days are normally filled with group activities.

Your feelings are normal and ok

If you find any “shoulds” popping up, they only exacerbate the problem. For example: If you think you should be over your partner’s death by now, you have to deal with the feelings of loss that you have, plus believing you are somehow bad or wrong for having the feelings. Emotions are easier to manage and work through if they are welcomed or at least accepted as normal.

Read on for some possible – no shoulds here – ways to pass the time, survive and thrive, and/or absorb some holiday joy.

Plan new activities you can do alone or with others

These can be holiday related, or not – whatever your feeds your soul. You might enjoy visiting a house of worship - church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or pagoda - whether or not you are a member. Simply call ahead to find a good fit, openness to your presence there, and a schedule for events and hours. The sense that you are part something bigger than yourself can inspire pure awe. Or you might find pleasure in television season binging – watching each episode in a season of a television series on DVD or a subscription service like Netflix or Hulu.

Many museums, theatres, zoos, and aquariums offer programs you can gift yourself. For example, our local musical theatre venue offers a discount for both matinee showings and blocks of three or more productions. And, our local aquarium offers free guided evening beach tours throughout the winter months.

If you enjoy travel, make a big deal of it and take a vacation somewhere you wouldn’t otherwise have time to go. Travel on holidays is often less expensive than before and after. A flight on Thanksgiving Day, for example, can cost 24% less for Asia to 31% less for South America, according to Kayak, and single seats are much easier to find than multiples.

Host a party

Invite others who don’t want to spend the holidays alone. Think of friends and coworkers you like; many singles and families consider themselves alone if they have no extended family, and they are likely to feel relief at being invited for a gathering and some fun. Depending on your interests, you could host a meal; a group walk in nature – say in the snow or on a blustery beach; or an activity like an ice-skating party or a show.

Perhaps you’d like to have a potluck dinner, or a moveable feast. A potluck – for those who don’t know, is simply a meal where all who partake bring something to share with others. Some are elaborate with multiple main courses and desserts, while others are simple snacks and drinks. You can decide how much or how little energy to spend on this. Another meal idea is something called a moveable feast. For this, all who are included pick one course to make and host at their own house. The group starts at the first course (or salad or wherever you decide to begin). When everyone has finished, the group – including the host of that first course – travels to the home of the second course. Play continues through to dessert or coffee or where ever you decide to end. A benefit of this is getting to know one another better and bonding along the way.


A good way to get out of your head for a bit is to do something in service of others. That can include volunteering at a pet shelter where pets might get less attention due to staff and customers taking time away. Or a homeless shelter, where you could bring books, serve a meal, or just visit with people who are often invisible to others. Or a nature clean-up, like a beach or park.

If you need help finding where you’re needed and what you might enjoy, try an internet search of “volunteers needed” or “volunteer opportunities.” I found more than 20 pages on the words “volunteers needed.” Understand you don’t need to go anywhere you might be uncomfortable. Surely, there is a group of people, animals, or an environmental cause, that will feel rewarding and fun. Pick a place that excites you when you think of it, research options, needs, and requirements online, and then give them a call. Agencies and the environment both need you, and feeling needed can cut through feeling lost or alone.

Be still

If these ideas don’t bring you joy, quieter activities like meditation might bring you peace. Several meditation centers offer free places to learn or practice meditation. For example, Vipassana Meditation Centers hold 10-day silent meditation training retreats. Room and board are free although donations of time, grounds keeping, sewing, or money are accepted, if you choose to offer after your first 10 days.

Reach out

If your emotions feel too deep or too big, and you think you might want support, contact a therapist who can help you work them through.

Share your thoughts

What do you do for the holidays? I’d love to hear. Post below and I’ll reply.

And, as always, I'm here. You can reach me in Issaquah at Balance InSight, 206-790-7270.

Thanks for reading, and be well. ~ Robin