The Holiday season is here (as a quick scroll through the radio stations already playing Christmas music will more than verify!) and for many people this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Meals around the table with family members you haven’t seen in months, excellent food, celebration of things to be thankful for and being able to give gifts to those you love a few weeks later and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (does it get any better than “A Charlie Brown Christmas”?? I submit to you that it does not!).
But for many of us, the holidays aren’t always so rosy. Time spent at family gatherings sometimes serve only to reinforce the loneliness that we’re able to ignore or stay too busy to notice throughout the rest of the year.
Long trips in the car alone provide way too much time to reflect on why it is you’re still making these long trips in the car alone…the same trip you make alone each year at this time.
It’s even worse when during these trips your mind begins to recall times when you didn’t have to make the trip alone…times when you had someone in your life to share such holiday trips with. Someone who you were excited to share with your family, and who was there to keep you from being the odd-man-out among a house full of couples and children. For those who no longer have such persons in their lives, the holidays can be pretty crappy. You find yourself wanting them to be over quickly so that you can return to the routine of life, to your friends, your work, or your ministry.
As you may have guessed, I’m not writing this from a detached or hypothetical position. The truth is, this is how I’ve found myself feeling around this time of year for most of my adult life. As much as I love my family (“love” is too weak a word; my family is my greatest of all God’s blessings in my life…by FAR!), I struggle with the holidays because they’re often the times any feelings of loneliness or unsettledness seem magnified the most. It’s as if feelings that are little taps on the shoulder for most of the year become Chuck Norris-level roundhouse kicks to the face from late November to late December.
And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. In fact, after a decade of ministry primarily to young adults, I know I’m not.
So what do we do? How do we celebrate this festive and joyous season–which also happens to be the season with the highest suicide rate of the year?? \
How do we help family members keep from unintentionally making it worse, yet still show the love and support and fellowship that is so crucial at such times?
Honestly…I don’t really know. I feel like it may have something to do with Paul’s words to the Roman Christians:
12:15 Rejoice with the ones rejoicing,
weep with the ones weeping…
But what does that look like in practical terms?
That’s where you Dojo readers come in.
What are some things that you’ve found most helpful in dealing with holiday loneliness?
And what are some that have been least helpful??
To be clear, this isn’t a pity-party (it could easily devolve into that if we’re not careful!), nor is it a gripe session for bitter or cynical people. Rather, it’s an attempt to dialogue within the Body of Christ in a way that acknowledges and validates something that often gets glibly dismissed or treated with ungodly cynicism.
Of course this isn’t a problem that only affects those who have no significant other…married people can and do experience various forms of loneliness during the holidays.
This is a sad reality, but honestly it is one that is simply foreign to my experience (and I hope it always will be!). Thus, this post is primarily about the loneliness that affects so many of my single and single-again brothers and sisters.
If nothing else, it’s my attempt to let them know that they’re not alone in feeling this way year after year.
ps: For those who find themselves struggling with severe depression, I’ve given a series of talks at CharlotteONE: on the subject that may help you work through the spiritual aspects of it. The series was called “The Dark Night of the Soul” and can be found at http://www.charlotteone.org/multimedia/audio.php
I’ve also written more about it here.