There are all kinds of reasons why someone might have to spend the holidays alone.
As writer Geri McClymont says at Holidappy, she was often abroad and unable to afford a trip home for Christmas. In other cases, McClymont points out, someone might be new in town or simply have no friends or family who live in the area. “For many people, it’s a combination of reasons,” she says.
Whatever the case, the holidays are an excellent time to reach out to someone — a coworker, an acquaintance, a stranger — who might otherwise be spending those days alone. Here are four ways you can do that this year.
1. Reach Out with a Non-Committal Invite
Almost everyone will appreciate an invite to a party or a get-together, regardless of the time of year. “If you are hosting a gathering, take a moment and think about the people in your life who might be delighted to have an invitation to join you,” says life coach Judith Johnson. “A simple act of kindness goes a very long way — especially during the holidays.”
But don’t force the issue. You might not know a specific person’s circumstances or whether holiday blues make it hard for them to get commit to any kind of social activity.
An even lower-pressure way of looping people in is by shooting out a group message for a specific event. “People are much more likely to respond to specific suggestions than to a generic ‘let’s get together,’” Guy Winch, Ph.D., writes at Psychology Today. “Posting a message on Facebook such as, ‘Message me if you want to go caroling tomorrow evening!’ might get a response and asking people to message rather than post a reply means a potential lack of response will at least not be public.”
2. Everyone Appreciates a Gift — or Even Just a Phone Call
Even if someone isn’t particularly receptive to a social invite, a small gift to let them know you’re thinking of them could brighten their spirits.
If that doesn’t feel like a good fit, McClymont suggests simply reaching out on the appropriate holiday with a phone call can be uplifting. “Even if they refused a previous offer to get together, offer another invitation to do something else, such as join you for a walk downtown to see the light displays,” she writes. “Again, if they don’t accept your offer, please know that you likely warmed their heart by merely extending the invitation.”
3. Remember That the Holidays Are Especially Difficult for Some People
It’s worth going a little further into McClymont’s advice about not taking it personally if someone doesn’t accept your offer to get together. As the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reminds readers who themselves might be facing a holiday alone, it’s OK to say “no” to invites.
“Saying ‘no,’ whether to gatherings or a present on someone’s wish list that you simply cannot find, can be one of the most challenging parts of the season,” NAMI writes. “But your own mental and physical well-being needs to come first.”
This is especially true of someone who is grieving from the loss of a loved one. The American Cancer Society acknowledges that for someone reaching out with the best of intentions, it’s still common “to feel awkward when trying to comfort someone who is grieving.”
If the person you’re reaching out to is grieving, you might want to follow some of their advice:
- Don’t hesitate to be genuine or to admit that you’re not sure what to say beyond expressing your concern.
- Don’t tiptoe around the word “died.” Acknowledging the reality of someone’s pain “shows that you are more open to talk about how the person really feels,” they write.
- Ask that person how he or she feels, and listen intently to that response.
4. Find a Dedicated Charity You Can Donate Time or Money To
If you need more opportunities to do good over the holidays, even for people you’ve never met, here are a few excellent resources:
- The charity Soldiers’ Angels has a program during the holidays called Adopt-A-Family that benefits families of deployed service members, wounded service members and certain qualified veterans.
- Meals On Wheels has plenty of volunteer opportunities throughout the country that let you connect with seniors in need of company and a good meal.
- Don’t forget four-legged friends who are alone this holiday season, either. The Humane Society of the United States welcomes committed volunteers who are ready to lend a hand.
And if you’re interested in learning how you can pay it forward for someone in your family, have a look at our holiday guide for helping older parents organize and declutter all of the sentimental belongings they have collected over the years.
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