How To Face Your First Holiday Alone

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Dear Christine,

I am facing my first Christmas alone this year. I took a job across the country from my family and I can't afford a plane ticket home for the holidays. And my parents can't afford to fly me home, which I know is really hard on them. I am dreading Christmas day because I know it's going to be hard, lonely and I'm going to miss my family a ton. How do I get through this holiday without feeling so incredibly depressed?

- Homesick at Christmas, 25, San Francisco

Dear Alone for Christmas,

Not being with the people you love during the holidays is difficult anyway you slice it, and I am sorry you will not be with your family this year. But how lucky you are to have a family to miss! Reminding yourself that a lot of people are totally alone, with no one even to call or miss on Christmas, isn't necessarily going to cure homesickness. However, spending time with those people who are less fortunate may rekindle your Christmas spirit.

There are countless opportunities to volunteer and be with other people on Christmas. Just googling "volunteer on Christmas Day" brings up a variety of ways to be of service. The site Volunteer Match offers opportunities within your zip code. You can also call your local hospital and inquire about ways to spread Holiday cheer to sick children or patients who have to spend the holidays in a hospital bed.

Giving your time to someone who will really cherish it is the best gift of all. Isn't that what Christmas is about anyway? And after you spend some time being of service, it will be wonderful to call your family and share with them how you transformed being alone at Christmas to bringing a little Christmas into some needy hearts.

Also use this year to create your own holiday traditions. Think of things you can do that put you in the holiday spirit and that feel like your own. When we are growing up, we take on the traditions of our family which can be wonderful and/or not exactly what we'd necessarily do on our own. Part of growing up is deciding what brings you the most joy and creating that. Make sure to treat yourself to some of the gifts on your Christmas list.

Feeling homesick during your first holiday season alone is normal. Do whatever you can to support yourself through it. Maybe it's getting your family registered for a Skype account so you can "virtually" be there. It may also feel supportive to look for some discounted airfare tickets after the holiday season so that you know you have a trip in the future that will take you home.

And don't be bashful about telling your friends you are homesick and not able to be with your family! I can recall a few times I found out friends were alone for the holidays and my first reaction was always, "Why didn't you tell me? You could have spent Christmas with my family." People are usually very open with invitations this time of year. Not only is it in the spirit of Christmas, but most people love the idea of having a friend as a "buffer" at family gatherings! You absolutely do not have to be alone at Christmas! It's a magical day filled with opportunities to give and receive - no matter where you are.

Merry Christmas,