As the holiday season approaches, I often think about those who are Suddenly Single – and have recently experienced life-altering events such as divorce, widowhood, or separation. Especially during the holidays, overwhelming feelings of loneliness and isolation can be tough to fight off. The cheerful festivities that are meant to foster togetherness can magnify the sense of being alone.
How can we help ourselves or others who find themselves suddenly single during the holidays? Here are some tips from women who have experienced it first-hand.
A Change of Scenery
Get out of the house. It’s normal to feel especially sad or frustrated after losing a spouse, particularly around the time of special occasions. You may have been bogged down with paperwork and phone calls trying to move forward with this new life. Or maybe you feel like you’re spinning your wheels since so many updates seem to take you into “hurry up and wait” mode.
One widow recently lamented that she feels stuck in a rut from it all. “I need to get back out there!” is what she decided. So maybe a change of scenery would help. Consider attending some events you used to go to or try something you have never done.
Focusing on others can also help. There are often many volunteer opportunities this time of year. Helping others can combat loneliness and provide a sense of fulfillment. Or start a new tradition. Instead of Turkey Day or Christmas Eve at your house, for example, perhaps another location becomes the new tradition or a rotating cycle begins.
A New Focus… on You
Put yourself first for a change. Your new life should focus on including self-care. I reminded a woman who lost her husband earlier this year to move herself to the front burner, instead of the back burner.
She recognized a long-ignored need to address her knee pain. I never knew she had knee pain since she kept it to herself, ignored it long enough to forget about it for a while, and likely wasn’t walking enough to notice it since she was busy caring for her husband. We are so good at loving others, but now is the time to shine the spotlight on yourself.
Finding Your Circle of Support
Reach out to support systems. Lean on friends and family. Share your feelings and seek their support. I’ve heard some women consider a support group or counseling as a sign of weakness. Others are not comfortable in a group setting or sharing with others they don’t know. Everyone is different, and that’s okay too. Support and connection can come in many forms. But going it all alone is rarely the most helpful.
I know women who have attended GriefShare or DivorceCare as one option for support. Some attended the series multiple times. It’s like watching a movie or reading a book more than once since you get something different out of it each time because you are in a different place each time.
One divorced woman I know volunteered to facilitate the class as another way to continue helping herself and others at the same time. There are virtual options, too. The Modern Widows Club, for example, has both virtual and in-person support options.
Conversely, one widow told me she attended GriefShare only to find herself reliving the difficult emotions she thought she had moved through already, so she stopped going. Everyone experiences loss differently, so not every form of support is the best fit for every person.
Many challenges come with loss. In my line of work, I most often see the financial side. This is why I developed a “Suddenly Single Money Bundle” and/or free financial planning calendar here. It can help to have tools to use that allow you to keep up with life’s changes and keep you moving through stressful times.
Remember, it’s okay to have a range of feelings during the holidays. With self-compassion and support, you can navigate this season with resilience. Wishing you much understanding, healing, and the strength to embrace the next chapter of your life this season and forever forward!
Let’s Have a Conversation:
What are your plans for the holiday season? Any words of advice to share with others in your shoes? How can we support women alone at this or any time of year? Let’s have a conversation!
This article was first published at 60 and Me – a community that helps women over 60 live happy, healthy and financially secure lives.