The holiday season always takes a toll on me: trying to avoid having a blue Christmas


Yes, it’s the week before Christmas and a lot is going on, for most people, that is. Being a single hermit-like creature of habit, this is the time of year when lack of my own family hits harder. Everyone, it seems, has plans for get-togethers with spouses, kids and in-laws, nieces, nephews, grandkids, friends etc. I do, thankfully, have my brother and his ladyfriend to be with, but frankly, without them, I’d be completely by myself onChristmas day, possibly sitting in my dining room eating a Stoeffer’s Turkey and Dressing frozen dinner with some cranberry sauce out of a can. Therefore, I’m quite thankful that I have a nice, cozy place to live, and will go to my brother’s place Christmas day, where the three of us will have a delicious dinner and open presents. Their Boston terrier whom I love, will be there to entertain and delight us with her antics.

Funny thing is, I had a strong feeling and fear from an early age (my teens) that this is exactly what it would be like when I got old. I’d be a loner like I’ve always been, except even more so. And, predictably also, I live too much in the past because, frankly, solitary old age can be pretty bleak, especially at Christmas. The past is where everything was, where life was lived with few thoughts of saggy and wrinkled skin, creeping old age, and mortality. The past was full of excitement, anticipation and an endless future. The present can have some or all of that, but for me, more likely, it means a lot of time time to reflect, with deep apprehension, the state of the country and the world, unimaginable prospects for the future with climate change, and the great imponderables and mysteries of life. This can be a call to action to combat the problems, or conversely it can all seem hopelessly depressing, depending on how much we think we need to know. Rose-tinted glasses don’t help.

Then there are the health issues and concerns. I read about someone who needed an ablation for a heart condition known as a-fib (atrial fibrillation). It’s a pretty major procedure, but sometimes it’s necessary. My mother had a-fib late in life when I was caring for her, and a bad attack of it once when she lost consciousness, scared the daylights out of me. Fortunately, she got stabilized with meds and the care of probably the best cardiologist in the area.

It’s only been during the four years since Mom passed that the holidays have become depressing for me. Not totally, but significantly.

In late November and into the first week of December every year, I get a little rush of holiday spirit and buy decorations such as snow globes that have Christmas carols, and pop-up Christmas cards just for myself. I make a Christmas village with Lemax houses and stores. I collect those truly beautiful and prized snowpeople figurines that Hallmark sells.

This year I bought a tiny tree at Walgreens and decorated it with equally tiny ornaments, about an inch in height. Where did I find them? On Amazon, of course. They came in a tiny box stuffed with little colorful Santa Clauses, candy canes, and miniature Christmas trees. They are very nice and cheery.

I’m looking at the tree now on a cold December night three days before Christmas, faintly smiling, reminiscing. Maybe I’ll go push a button and listen to “White Christmas” sung by the reindeer stuffed animal I bought on impulse a couple of weeks ago at Big Lots.

I’m looking at all the Christmas decorations as I write, wondering why on earth I went overboard this year. I guess the answer is partly that when you feel lonely and depressed, you buy things, at least I do.

For many years when I lived with my mother and took care of her as she declined slowly with dementia, I was, for part of that time, working full-time. I was also absorbed in keeping track of long-term care insurance which paid for six part-time home-aides, prepared many of Mom’s meals, took her vitals every morning, monitored her diabetes and gave her insulin shots, got her cleaned up and dressed and ready for each day, managed all her meds, and still found a little time, usually on weekends, to visit the nearby state park and gardens I love for an hour or so to take pictures. Those getaways were absolutely vital and restorative, precious times when I could clear my head for a short time. I was so busy that every day was super-charged into those proverbial “36-hour days” that dementia and Alzheimer’s caregivers experience.

Also, I was, from the years 2012-2020, surrounded by people all the time, mainly the caregiver/home-aides. My life was extremely busy and often highly stressful as Mom’s dementia got worse, but I’ve forgotten, or rather, rarely if ever recall the terrible nights when I felt I couldn’t take it anymore. I look back on those years asa deeply fulfilling time, more so than I had ever known. I never felt more alive.

Now, all of that is gone. And nothing can take its place. If I let myself, I start to feel a little dead inside.

The family house downtown is sold and replaced by memories. It’s completely quiet and peaceful where I live, and I am truly grateful to have this place where I can surround myself with my books and boxes of memorabilia. Sometimes I think a good chunk of my life story can be told or recalled from all those “things.” If this apartment I live in now was empty except for basic furnishings, and neat as a pin, I think I’d go stark, raving mad. A bit unfortunately, I live in the very opposite conditions. Such is my life. Clutter comforts me.

It’s a different world now, and as the years pass and I get older, it’s a more scary world of health concerns, exacerbated by isolation and admittedly, too much solitude. Don’t get me wrong — I love being by myself and do everything alone, and always have. But at Christmas, more than any time of the year, it just doesn’t feel so good.

But this will mostly pass, more or less, as the new year makes its appearance, and I give myself a reprieve from dreary and depressing thoughts. I’ll be out on cold, sunny and sparkling winter days at those same favorite parks and gardens, talking walks and photographing every aspect of Nature that I love and hold dear: live oaks, Spanish moss, radiant red camellias, marshes and tidal creeks, paths through the woods, golden afternoon light, and glorious and miraculous sunsets over the river and harbor. Nature heals me time and again, and in just over two months the land will be alive again with blooming azaleas, birdsong and new green on the trees. Life goes on.

As Henri Nouwen wrote:

…It is you who decides what you think, say, and do. You can think yourself into a depression, you can talk yourself into low self-esteem, you can act in a self-rejecting way. But you always have a choice to think, speak, and act in the name of God and so move toward the Light, the Truth, and the Life…

One would think the solitary life would make this easier.

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December 22, 2023

I hope writing this helped you feel less lonely. There is definitely a difference between being alone and feeling lonely, but your writing is beautiful and I felt like I was sitting there right next to you while I read it. Perhaps you’re putting more companionship out into the world than you know

December 24, 2023

@mrsdewees Thank you for the kind and encouraging words!  I am glad to know my writing resonates with you.

I like to think of it as the difference between “loneliness” and “aloneness.” I don’t feel true loneliness that often because I have managed my depression, which has been severe at times, and thus when I do start to get in that “void” mood, it usually passes fairly quickly.

The key for me when no one is ever around is to keep busy with all my photography projects, writing, and some new hobbies which I enjoy immensely, such as rock and gem collecting.  But the main thing that keeps me level and sane is my outings in Nature.  I am always rejuvenated by these.

December 22, 2023

I agree with Cassie’s comment.

You sound like a very engaging person, and if you wanted company, I can imagine there would be a lot of people who would be happy to make your acquaintance.  I also think you should consider sharing your talents with others in your area, maybe photo, poetry or writing clubs?

December 24, 2023

@ravdiablo Thank you!  I can be quite gregarious and social in the right circumstances.  At all my jobs before I retired, my co-workers became my work friends.  When I retired, all that ended, and I had to discover new ways to deal with constant aloneness, especially, as I mentioned above, in the four years since my mother passed, and the responsibility of taking care of her ended.

Socializing is not really difficult for me if and when I am in positions to be sociable. That is a rare thing, however, and for better or worse I fall back on myself and live the kind of solitary life that all my deepest inclinations have always pointed to. Some of us are just that way, and we can merely cope, or we can make the best of the situation and thrive in our own way, which I have tried to do through my writing and photography. 🙂


December 24, 2023

@oswego My ARP (Atypical Relationship Partner) is very much like that: she doesn’t mind living far away from people, going for days without seeing people she knows. At the same time, she pours all her efforts into the few people with whom she is “known” and I filled the loneliness she felt, the craving for emotional and physical connection.

December 23, 2023

You sound very much like me

December 24, 2023

@nadiaaa I think there are many more people like me than I could ever imagine.  I just never get to know or interact with them.

December 23, 2023

your line “if i let myself, i start to feel a little dead inside”…


really struck me.  it resonates deeply.  and oh boy, do i understand the retail therapy as a way of trying to fill some holes that can’t be filled.


i hope your christmas day is warm and enjoyable with your brother and his lady friend.

December 24, 2023

@mizzd4ever That deadness feeling is usually quite fleeting and briefly comes upon me when I look back on my life alone mostly, and think negative thoughts about myself or feel really lonely.  Generally, I have so many thing they are intellectually stimulating to me including countless books, articles (online and in print) ebooks, YouTubes, etc., that I can snap  out of the darkest moods just thinking about what to read or  explore next.

Wishing you peace and contentment this holiday season!

December 24, 2023

My dad has A-Fib and had the ablation done, which has kept him okay for the past year.  I worry about having it, too.

I love the quote at the end…especially that you can think yourself into a depression.  That is so true!!  Some days it’s very hard to keep only positive thoughts in your head but so worth the effort.

Merry Christmas to you friend.  I hope you have a nice day with good food and company.  I think Christmas is a really good time or a really sad time for a lot of people.  I hope you can keep the sadness away.

December 25, 2023

@happyathome Thank you!  I hope you’ve had a good Christmas!

My Christmas was last night at my brothers where we had a huge dinner and opened presents.  That was a big emotional high, but today, alone on Christmas Day, was a real come down, but it’s like this every year.  I should be used to it by now.

January 6, 2024

@oswego I’m sorry you were alone on Christmas Day.  I know I would have a hard time with that.  I’m glad you had somewhere to go on Christmas Eve.  Happy New Year to you…I hope it’s a good one for you.

December 25, 2023

Wishing you peace and joy during the holidays. Big Hugs

December 25, 2023

@timita Thank you!  🙂 Wishing you happiness  and peace in the new year!