Dear Dr Laura,
I’m 48 and I’m completely cut off from my family in Cornwall. Most of my gay friends are going back to their families around the country. I’m going to be quite alone this Christmas and work doesn’t start again until January. I’m worried about getting a bit depressed and down. Can you give me some advice please?
Christmas can indeed be lonely – the streets seem filled with couples and families, laughing and shopping, and it can feel like you’re the only person not living the festive dream. However surveys suggest anything between 1 in 20 and 1 in 6 people spent Christmas Day alone last year.
So what to do?
Do exactly what YOU want; lie in, drink Campari for breakfast in your pants, take a 3 hour bath, watch A Star Is Born on repeat. No expectations, no family tension, nobody else’s food restrictions….! I guarantee some of your friends will be complaining about enduring the company of others when we return to normality in January.
Is there something you’ve been planning to do or try but haven’t had the chance? Now could be the time to read that book, paint that shed, visit that city, plug in that sewing machine, or try that recipe?
You don’t have to stay at home – how about a solo trip abroad? Or a decadent hotel stay in the UK? If you don’t fancy travelling, book Christmas lunch in a local pub or restaurant; you might start the day alone but a few smiles in the direction of your fellow diners and you’re bound to meet new faces.
Volunteer a helping hand
Numerous projects and charities will be grateful for a helping hand. Crisis and AgeUK are two examples of large organisations offering volunteering opportunities and there are many more, including:
Food Chain: this fantastic organisation supplies food and support to people in London with HIV
The Trussell Trust: runs food bank services at 1200 locations
There are many other suggestions here: londonist.com/london/christmas-in-london/where-to-volunteer-in-london-at-christmas
Smaller organisations may not have websites so consider popping in to ask your local care home, drug centre or animal charity if they need an extra pair of hands. Have you got a neighbour who is elderly, or lives alone, who would appreciate a chat or some company?
House-sit at Christmas
There may be opportunities to look after someone’s house, with or without pets! Try trustedhousesitters.com/gb
Host for the holiday
Are you certain your friends all have plans? Others may be shy to admit that they don’t, so ask your friends and colleagues, send out a message on WhatsApp, and invite fellow seasonal soloists over for your very own Christmas Come Dine With Me! People with plans may not have realised you’re alone and happily invite you to theirs.
You mention you are completely cut off? Is it time to address that? Maybe the rift is irreparable but many family stand-offs are just crying out for someone to make the first move. Your attempt may fail (in which case, you tried, you’re the better person, try one of the options above) but it may be the first step to resolution.
Ultimately, approach Christmas positively – whether you stay in, go out, volunteer, or reach out to your family, find joy in your choice and smile! Remember, those carefully curated Facebook and Instagram feeds show rose-tinted lives; nobody posts arguments about the TV, pictures of frustrated kitchen tears, or tales of strops when your sister decides Christmas Day is the perfect time to tell your parents about a house party you held years ago – maybe if they did we’d all feel less pressure to have an ‘amazing’ time.