Are you spending Christmas alone this year? Do you know someone that is? Australia is in the grip of a loneliness epidemic at the moment. The past 20 months has been a strain on us all, but just imagine if you are ‘stuck’ here in Australia and haven’t seem your family for months, even years? The up-coming Christmas must seem like a looming nightmare.
A client of ours: an Aussie who lives in New Zealand, took advantage of the travel bubble, to come back to Australia to introduce her 3-month-old baby to her elderly parents. Her husband stayed behind. The border was slammed shut! Now, 8 months later, her baby almost 1 year old, she still cannot go home to New Zealand, to her husband, to her job, to her life. And no end in sight!
Backpackers, in Australia, for 6 months – stuck for 2 years and counting.
Families separated by borders! People in quarantine! Friends divided over vaccine choices!
Our world is crazy right now. But right now is where we all need to remember the values of Christmas. The values of sharing, getting together, supporting one another.
Isolation and Loneliness
The feeling of isolation and loneliness are challenging in normal times during the festive season. The expectation of happiness that we are ‘sold’ with all the advertising, amplifies any negative feelings, anger, distress, anxiety, and fears that people may already have. Suicide rates increase over Christmas as people feel lost, helpless, unworthy, or simply don’t feel they belong or even matter. When we think nobody cares, this world can be a scary place.
So, how can we best help people, old or young, who we know will be isolated of the festive season? Here are some tips that may help reduce the risk of loneliness. It really isn’t that hard to make a huge impact on someone’s day, just by doing something small.
Start conversations, say hello, give an honest compliment. Ask, how are you doing? Talk, it doesn’t need to be long, but more meaningful than a casual wave ‘hello’ across the fence or road. Take the time to check how they are going? Ask, are you spending Christmas alone? Can I help? Do you need anything? (if you know them well enough) Knock on doors of those you know live alone and give them a Christmas card and spark a conversation. A 5-minute conversation has an amazing impact on those who have no-one to talk to.
Ring your family and friends to let them know you are thinking of them.
At the supermarket, speak to the checkout operator. A smile and a nice word is truly appreciated when you have been serving customers for hours.
Invite Friends to Christmas Lunch
Steve and I spent a lot of years as ‘ex-pats’ (foreign workers). Christmas was a fun but lonely time. All the ex-pat community would get together and there was always someone that was new or had no one! We found it was exciting to invite these people to join our Christmas celebrations. In our towns and cities, we have become so dis-connected, especially during the Covid-19 dramas. It’s time to get back to including and allowing people to belong again.
Volunteer for a Charity
Rosies – Friends on the Street is my favourite. They run ‘out reaches’ all through the year to offer coffee, tea and biscuits to anyone who wants a chat! Same place, same time, every day, every week throughout the year.
This Christmas, please take the time to let someone know ‘you care’! It really doesn’t matter whether it is a stranger, a close friend, or a family member. The loneliest people are sometimes surrounded by lots of people. Ask: are you Okay and wait to hear an answer.