We finished our Christmas shopping today. I sent off most of the Christmas e-cards today. Now we only have to prepare for tomorrow’s Christmas feast. I hate to admit it, but I’m going to be glad when Christmas is over. I told my wife today that I yearn for a simpler time. I miss the days when a holiday did not require cutting edge logistics management.
I wanted to avoid writing yet another Christmas-themed blog entry today. Instead, I thought I would mention a phenomenon many transients face during the holidays–being separated from their loved ones. Maybe you’re an expatriate living in a foreign country where your holidays are not celebrated. Perhaps you’re stationed overseas in a place such as Iraq. Maybe you moved out of your hometown and live far, far away. Maybe your family has passed away. Perhaps you’re a road warrior staying in a hotel while your family is at home in another city. I read once upon the time that Christmas is the time of year when the suicide rate in the U.S. is at its highest. I don’t doubt that suicide rates worldwide are highest during local festivities. Little wonder–the holidays are a time when loved ones come together to enjoy one another and share in the blessings they have received over the past year. When you are alone, away, without the company of family and friends, the loneliness can be overwhelming. If you live in a new location, usually it’s a matter of time before you meet new friends who can help mitigate the loneliness. If you are transient and move frequently though, it is difficult to find new friends with each move you make. Building friendships take time, and time is not on the side of the one who travels or moves frequently.
My wife has been through this difficulty ever since she left China as a teenager, because she has not been able to spend Chinese New Year with family since she moved alone to the U.S. years ago. We’re both in this situation now. We arrived in Korea earlier this year. We don’t have any family here, although we’ve met many new friends. In less than two years we’ll be in another place, leaving all of our friends here far behind. Our connection will devolve into e-mail and phone contacts and the occasional visit.
Here are some ideas as to how to cope with this predicament:
- Fly home for the holidays. Many of my colleagues and friends went back to the U.S. for the holidays. This is usually the most expensive option, especially if you live far away and have children. You have to buy a plane ticket for each child over the age of two years. The cost starts to add up.
- Call your friends and families. This is what people often do. Contact the ones you love and talk to them over the holidays. This is just as important for your loved ones as it is for you. Be careful, though. This could leave you feeling even lonelier.
- Host a party and invite friends over to join you. The longer you stay in one location, the easier it gets to make friends and celebrate the holidays with them. I recall an occasion two months ago when one of my colleagues hosted a birthday party for his young son just two weeks after they arrived. It was a bit awkward for him, but he invited many neighborhood children to the party, even children who had never met his son. His son had a wonderful birthday party and made many new friends.
- Go somewhere. If you’re lonely at home, there’s no need to stay home. Staying home alone can often worsen the situation. Go somewhere fun. Do something you like to do. Go somewhere where you can meet new friends. On two occasions, my wife and I spent Christmas in foreign countries where we knew absolutely no one. We had a great time. There’s nothing like spending Christmas Eve having dinner at a restaurant on the Nile River in Aswan, Egypt as the full moon shimmers, reflecting on the water and illuminating the hillsides on the opposite bank.
- Forget it ever happened. Sometimes the best thing to alleviate loneliness is to put the holiday furthest from your mind and do something else. Read a book. Go to a movie. Play video games. Write your blog. Do something mindless that will keep your mind from wandering.
- Do something that reminds you of the holidays. Sometimes it helps to conjure memories of the holidays if you celebrate the holidays by doing something, buying something, or wearing something that reminds you of the holidays. Just make sure it decreases loneliness, not exacerbate it.