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How to Cope with Loneliness and Grief this Holiday Season

How to Cope with Loneliness and Grief this Holiday Season

This holiday season many of us will experience loneliness and loss. We usually associate grief with death, but we grieve a lot of other losses as well.

Some of the reasons people feel alone during the holidays include:

  • a break-up or divorce
  • moved to a new community
  • estranged from or not talking to family
  • don’t feel connected to or accepted by the people you are with
  • loved one is not himself due to mental illness or substance abuse
  • loved one is in jail, rehab or the hospital
  • had to set a boundary and choose not to spend holidays together
  • death
  • longing for a relationship
  • loved one is serving in the military and/or is away from home
  • children are away at college or at your ex’s
  • placed a child for adoption or unable to parent your child

Sometimes being alone is not our choice. Not everyone has family, some can’t afford to travel to visit family, and some have lost loved ones in varying ways.

Others choose not to be around their family due to repeated hurts and conflict. Even when you are the one who has chosen not to be with family, it can still hurt. Your loss is still real.

And there are other times when you are actually with family or friends, but still feel lonely.

Sharon’s tips for coping:

Acknowledge your loss.

Allow yourself to be sad and grieve. Process your feelings through talking, writing, or creative outlets. You don’t have to fake happiness all the time. It’s important to be true to your feelings; make time to cry or be sad if needed.

Adjust your expectations.

Loneliness is particularly strong during the holiday season because we expect to be at family dinners, parties with friends, or New Year’s Eve celebrations with our sweethearts. The media drills it into our heads that the holidays are about family. Memories, both good and bad, of past holidays also influence our expectations. It’s hard to let go of how holidays used to be and longing for the good old days. And it’s hard to let go of our dreams about how what we hoped the holidays would be like this year. Unrealistic expectations will leave you sad and angry. Even though it can be sad to let go of the fantasy, you will be better off with realistic expectations.

How to Cope with Loneliness and Grief this Holiday Season #lonelinessDon’t wallow in it.

You need to balance honoring your true feelings with doing things that will make you feel better. It is ultimately your responsibility to try to feel better. Take good care of yourself: sleep enough, eat reasonably healthy, don’t overindulge in alcohol, exercise, get outside in the sunlight.

The antidote to loneliness is connection.

Shame and fear often keep us from reaching out for help. I assure you that you aren’t the only one feeling lonely or grieving. It’s OK to let others know what you’re going through. If you don’t ask for help and connection, you will continue to feel alone. Remember, people can’t read your mind or intuitively know what you need. Be open to invitations and offers of help.

You can look for connection through a:

  • support group or 12 step meeting
  • religious community
  • volunteer group
  • therapist

Do what you love.

You can improve your mood by doing something that brings you joy. If you have time off from work over the holidays, use it to have some fun. Think about your hobbies or interests. It might be something you haven’t done in a while or do something new if you can’t remember what you love to do.

The holidays don’t have to be lonely. You have choices and there are steps you can take to reduce loneliness and heal from grief. I wish you the best possible holiday season.


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How to Cope with Loneliness and Grief this Holiday Season

Sharon Martin, LCSW

Sharon Martin is a licensed psychotherapist and codependency expert practicing in San Jose, CA. She is the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism: Evidence-Based Skills to Help You Let Go of Self-Criticism, Build Self-Esteem, and Find Balance and several ebooks including Navigating the Codependency Maze.  

To learn more, visit Sharon's website. And please sign-up for free access to her resource library HERE (worksheets, tips, meditations, and resources for healing codependency, perfectionism, anxiety and more).

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APA Reference
Martin, S. (2019). How to Cope with Loneliness and Grief this Holiday Season. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Nov 2019
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