This year I'm not able to afford to fly back and spend the holidays with my family, so I am facing my first holiday alone. The way I'm dealing with it is that I'm not getting too excited or invested in the holiday season. I just can't wait for it to be over. I know I'm an adult now, but I just feel like a kid who wants to be home for Christmas. How should I deal with this?
~ Holiday Blues, 24, New York
Dear Holiday Blues,
Not being with the people you love during the holidays is difficult, and I am sorry you will not be with your family this year. The holidays are about good will and cheer, yet they do bring on a swirl of emotions about the previous year, and being away from family doesn't help. No matter what age you are, there's nothing wrong with wanting to bring back the magic of being a kid at Christmas. Being an adult means many things, but it doesn't mean you have to have a stiff upper-lip when it comes to a holiday away from family. One way to counteract this and rekindle your Christmas spirit is by spending time with those people who are less fortunate.
There are countless opportunities to volunteer and be with other people on Christmas. Just Google "volunteer on Christmas Day" brings up a variety of ways to be of service. The site VolunteerMatch.org 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. Moreover, you will really see that giving is the ultimate form of receiving.
Also, 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 a friend was 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!
It really is easy to start spinning in your mind that you are alone when not in the usual company of family and friends at home for the holidays. It's important to remember that while you may not physically be there, you are far from being alone. Call your family and friends (maybe they would split investing in an affordable webcams so you can Skype each other), get out to volunteer, and see if there are friends in your city to spend time with. Especially with the economic crunch we are in, you may be surprised by the number of people you know in the same boat.
Most importantly, don't let the image of what a holiday "should" be dictate your feelings. This time of year is filled with movies and advertisements that oversell this time of year promote false expectations. Focus on what this season is really about: love and gratitude - not presents and parties. You can still fill yourself with the same feelings of love, friendship, and compassion that are at the core of the holiday season if you just look.
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