If you’re feeling lonely this Christmas, you’re not alone. Sad Christmas songs are popular because they strike a responsive chord in many.
For a number of people, Christmas this year will be tinged with the loss of a loved one or companion. Decorating the tree and all of the holiday traditions just aren’t the same when you’re by yourself and everyone else is enjoying their family and friends. As the classic song “Blue Christmas” goes: “It won’t be the same, dear, if you’re not here with me.”
But how widespread is loneliness at this festive time of year? Age UK estimates that 450,000 older people will be alone this Christmas. And the Campaign to End Loneliness says 800,000 older people in England are “chronically lonely,” almost three million are lonely, and five million regard television as their main form of company.
Chronic loneliness is more than just being on your own. It means that you feel isolated, without support from others over a long period of time. We can be surrounded by people and yet still be lonely. This isolation can be self-imposed due to inhibitions, or it can be the result of a lack of communication skills, or physical challenges. In any case, this seclusion can cause feelings of stress, low self-worth, or depression.
Paul McCartney recounts that his song “Eleanor Rigby” (“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?”) was inspired by his experiences as a young boy. “When I was really little, I lived in a housing estate where a lot of old ladies lived. I enjoyed sitting around with them because they had these great stories about World War II. I used to visit one lady in particular and go shopping for her—you know, she couldn’t get out. So I had that figure in my mind of a sort of lonely old lady. Over the years, I’ve met a couple of others, and maybe their loneliness made me empathize with them. So I started this song about the lonely old lady who picks up the rice in the church, who never really gets the dreams in her life.”1
Something we might draw from McCartney’s experiences is how older people enjoy being around young people and sharing their stories. The older generation has so much they can pass on to the next generation, and the younger ones can benefit so much from those who have already walked further down life’s long highway.
When our family lived in Japan, we formed a singing group of our children and their friends to visit homes for the elderly during the Christmas season. The highlight of the program was after the performance, when the children would mingle with the elderly folks and talk with them. Some of the seniors remarked that, since we came regularly every December, they eagerly looked forward to our visit throughout the year. It seemed we were amongst the few visitors some of them had.
What can we do to alleviate others’ loneliness or even our own this Christmas? Here are some tips you might find helpful:
Reach out to those around you. Maybe you have a neighbor who has no family nearby, or you know of a friend who would love to invite you over if they knew you were feeling so alone. Take the first step to be with others by reaching out to them. Give yourself an opportunity to be with people and be a gift to others this season.
Help those in need. There are lots of ways to help those in your community at this time of year. Whether volunteering at a local food pantry or sending Christmas cards, find an activity that you’re passionate about and show up.
Let Jesus’ presence fill your heart. Take this time of fewer distractions from social activities to get to know your Savior even more. Read His Word in the Bible and be open to seeing what He wants to teach you during this time.
Pray for others. If you hear of someone going through a rough time, stop and pray for that person. And don’t be afraid to ask for prayer for yourself if you need it.
Get out of the house when possible. There are different Christmas activities to enjoy this time of year—caroling and concerts, candlelight services, and Christmas light shows. Join in on the festivities and celebrating the birth of our Savior.
- Paul McCartney 2018 interview with GQ.