I Survived Christmas


Not everyone enjoys Christmas or other holidays throughout the year for that matter, much of it relating to moments of trauma or loss in their lives.

At one of our recent meetups we talked about getting through the holidays this year, what some of our triggers are and ideas about how to make it to the other side of the season as best as possible. 

I was reminded of times that I’ve gone through some of these moments alone, so I have been reflecting on them and found it has actually been a good exercise for me.

Being alone was never my strong suit. My entire life had been spent finding ways to be with people and every waking moment was consumed with togetherness. I was the extreme extrovert, you could say, and I was known as the go-to for all things team, group or fun activities. 

Then I ended up alone in a big city, newly single after a 10-year marriage, the only familiar human being my mom’s childhood friend. 

It didn’t take long once I got working and learned my way around, to find a new tribe and meet some people I enjoyed hanging out with. But then Christmas was upon me, and everyone had their own plans, as is usually the way. I remember feeling completely disheartened knowing I couldn’t go home for Christmas and wondered how I would ever get through the holidays alone. The pitying looks of people when they asked what I was doing for Christmas certainly didn’t help. 

I knew I would have my family time, it would just be later, not on Christmas. So, what’s a girl to do when she finds herself alone in the big city on Christmas, still trying to recover from the loss of a marriage? I had all kinds of conversations in my head and finally decided that my experience would depend solely on me and I could do one of two things: have a grandiose pity party or make some memories of my own, just for me. I chose the latter and it ended up being life-altering.

Planning ahead and figuring out what I could do by myself was a crucial step. I had to think outside myself a little, as this was such a foreign thing to me. I checked the theatre and there was a new movie coming out on Christmas Day that seemed doable (Little Women). I thought about skating at the Legislature grounds, wasn’t entirely sure I still had it in me, but I knew where my skates were so no excuses! And I knew people from my job that had to work Christmas Day, so I thought about how I could improve their day as well. Back then, my chocolate chip cookies were quasi-famous so that was an easy do. 

I scheduled my day around the movie. Yes, scheduled. I knew if I didn’t have it planned out that it would be too easy to sit in my apartment and wallow. The movie came out late afternoon, so I went skating first. Did it feel weird going alone? Absolutely! Did I get some strange looks from the handful of people who were also there? For sure. Was it hard to see the togetherness of the others? You bet. But I was determined to make that Christmas Day a “success” no matter what. 

The movie was fantastic! I bought popcorn and hunkered down in what I considered to be the best seat in the theatre. If I remember correctly, there were less than ten people interfering with my alone time. It was lovely not to have people talking around me or to me, and I got to enjoy it without having to consider someone else’s time or space. That was an entirely new experience.

After the movie, I took my ice cream pail of fresh cookies to the staff and watched their faces light up at the gesture and at the distraction. I hung out for a bit, we had some laughs and I went home with a peace-filled heart.

I’d made it through the day and actually enjoyed it. I learned some valuable lessons that day. Not everything in life goes according to plan, nor does being alone have a huge appeal during the holidays but setting some plans in place and following through with them gave me the opportunity to push through some self-pity. It also taught me that I could be alone and enjoy my own company. I have since occasionally ended up at a movie or at a café alone and now I am grateful for a wee bit of alone time. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to say that!

A few years ago, I was in a similar situation except I had three kids in tow. We decided together that going to a seniors’ residence and spending some time singing carols, reading the Christmas story and just sitting with them would be good for everyone – them and us. We opened our gifts in the morning and then headed out for the afternoon to spend time with those who had no family. It was simply beautiful and a memory I will cherish. Watching my kids put smiles on lonely faces was priceless. 

I share these experiences in the hopes that during this Christmas Season if you find yourself having to do the holidays differently, it might spark some ideas for getting creative and making the most of it.

Always remember that you are

BRAVER than you believe,

STRONGER than you seem,

SMARTER than you think,

And twice as beautiful as you've ever imagined. 

Dr. Seuss