The holiday season is generally thought of as a time for joy and love, but for some people, it is a time of loneliness.
Opinion by Ropafadzo Mapimhidze
Holiday times are periods when people gather together as family and friends to update each other about the yearly events in laughter and joy.
For single parents, especially those that have empty nests, it is even much more lonely because their children are grown ups and may have left Zimbabwe to go abroad.
The empty nest syndrome affects a lot of people of my age who are single parents for various reasons like divorce or death of a partner.
As everybody plans to go to various areas like game parks, pleasure resorts or even the village, it is not the same story for some people.
For Chiedza, a 53 year-old Dzivaresekwa woman, holidays are the most distressful periods of her life because they constantly remind her that she is alone with no family to visit.
“This is the period when families meet and make merry. Some go to the village and stay with relatives for that period, but I can’t.
“My husband left me years ago and all my children are grown ups living abroad and they rarely come to visit. The village I only knew was where my husband came from, but he has a new wife so I am not welcome.
“My parents died a long time ago and all my uncles and aunts are scattered around the world so that is what stresses me during these times.”
She said whilst she would love vising her workmates at their homes, she feels it is an invasion of privacy.
“Christmas and New Year’s eve are times when couples relax from the busy work schedules and descending on them is just not nice.”
Part of why holidays feel lonelier for many people is that our society has high expectations for this time of year.
Linda, another single parent, said: “Scarcity of the US dollar has made it so difficult to buy presents for friends and relatives.
“Over 15 years ago, I could afford to buy all my subordinates at work, close family members and friends a Christmas present, but I have not done so in a long time.
“Things have changed so much that I have not received just a Christmas card for the past two years. It feels so horrible. Years ago, I could afford to buy lots of groceries for both my maternal and paternal relatives, but I just can’t afford that anymore. I am saving every dollar for my children’s school fees.”
Men I spoke to said they always found something to do around Christmas. A widower in Greystone Park said he had not yet found a suitable partner so he will host a party for his friends and their spouses.
“It’s difficult dating again after 30 years of marriage. I don’t have the skills to attract women any more so that has left me lonelier than ever before,” said Rudi.
If you’re experiencing loneliness that causes you stress during the holiday season, the following suggestions can help.
Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN.com) has given ten suggestions on how to deal with loneliness:
- Stay engaged in life
Don’t isolate yourself. Plan to attend activities that don’t require a partner — a sing-along at church, a cooking demonstration
- Exercise self-care
Get out and exercise. Eat well. Treat yourself to a massage or a good book. Take up a hobby.
- Get a pet
Pets make great companions if you can afford them and can work them in to your lifestyle.
- Develop an attitude of gratitude
Studies show that focusing on your blessings improves your mood.
- Lose the self-pity
There is always someone with a story more desperate than yours. Life is hard and loss happens. God helps us through hardship, but He never promised a life without heartache.
- Help others
Serve the homeless, take cookies to the elderly, or organise an event for a nursing home.
- Rethink your expectations
With all the hype around the holidays, it is easy to think everyone is gathering and having the time of their life. Assess your situation, make realistic expectations and actively work at them.
- Evaluate your friendships
Have you spent time all year cultivating friends? If not, this may be one reason you are feeling lonely. Decide to make changes in the coming year to build relationships.
- Do not use alcohol, shopping, eating or other vices to cope with lonely feelings
When you feel down, write a list of behaviors that are healthy. Your list could include listening to upbeat music, calling a friend, writing in a journal, or reading the Bible.
- Don’t give in to hopelessness
Get out your Bible, read the promises of God, pray and worship. God never leaves you and offers His spirit to comfort you.