7 Remedies for Lonely Holidays Due to COVID and Divorce

One isolating incident is tough, but two? Here are some tools to help.

Posted Nov 26, 2020

The Problem

Leave it to a once-in-a-century pandemic to make people evaluate whether they are living the life they want to be living. 

leon liu / unsplash
Source: leon liu / unsplash

Couples already having one foot out the door couldn't bear the thought of being trapped inside, especially with kids home from school, and out-of-the-house diversions and self-care unavailable.

Just one month into the COVID-19 lockdowns in this country, the number of divorce petitions filed in the U.S. rose dramatically (34% to be exact). The New York Post said it this way: "The combination of stress, unemployment, financial strain, death of loved ones, illness, homeschooling children, mental illnesses, and more has put a significant strain on relationships."

Add to this, a major shake-up of your marriage (and, in turn, your family life), and it can be the making of a very lonely holiday season, indeed.

Even under the best of conditions, holidays add stress to our lives, if for no other reason than the unspoken expectation that it is a time of family togetherness. The pressure to take advantage of "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" and find the best deals on gifts you're expected to buy for friends and family is formidable.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the weather here in the Northern hemisphere as a factor in bringing people down due to Seasonal Affect Disorder (S.A.D.) or general depression. Shorter days and colder weather can be tough on the average person's psyche.

I imagine the collective unconscious this winter is among the bluest it has been in modern times.

The Solutions

Although these issues are real and challenging, they are not insurmountable in terms of things people can do to feel better. In fact, there are several steps people can take to get through this holiday season in better shape. 

Below is a list I've gathered of positive actions you can take to feel better.

These are from Hartford Health:

1. Share like interests when and how you can. Unlike the days of the Spanish flu, we have the internet and can stay connected even if only virtually. Not only can we connect with grandchildren and siblings just to say hello or send love, but we can also take classes, join groups, or share tasks (as my fellow business owner and I do in our respective homes with our monthly accounting). 

2. Be positive. When you're feeling down, this advice can be trite at best, insensitive at worst. Yet, it is something to strive for. Creating a gratitude list can shift the needle ever so slightly toward the light, so why not keep trying? It's certainly better than feeding the negativity.

3. Quality over quantity. There's almost nothing lonelier than making five phone calls but feeling empty at the end of five superficial conversations. Likewise, it can feel wonderful to have one short, but deep, talk with another person.   

4. Leverage social media. This one is tricky. Having a window into the lives of others by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media outlet can be wonderful. You can feel a sense of connection by commenting and “liking” others’ posts. 

adrian swancar / unsplash
Source: adrian swancar / unsplash

But—and it’s a big but—social media can be a huge trap for "comparing your insides to other people’s outsides." Couples and families posting happy smiles, having great meals, and doing interesting things when you are in a bad space can add to your sense of isolation. My advice is to do social media in manageable doses and if or when you start feeling bad as a result of what you’re seeing, don’t try to “push through.” Sign off until you’re feeling better.

In a blog post I wrote about divorce and loneliness a few years ago, I shared these tips:

For those who are grieving the loss of a loved one this holiday season, here’s what you need to know about how to handle your grief

Be with your grief and it will actually pass quicker.

Your emotions need to be played out fully, so grieve until your grief is over. Most people want to be done with the emotional roller coaster far before the process is over. But the more you fight it, the more you actually prolong it. (And, by the way, getting into a new relationship will, at best, postpone your grief. You really can't escape it).

Keep moving. 

Don't stay stuck in the past longer than your grief needs you to. Although you must feel the sadness and perhaps even anger as part of your grief, there's a point at which you will want to look at the road ahead rather than continuing to look in the rearview mirror. You have a right to all of your feelings but if you see everything through a divorce lens for years afterward, you won't go on to enjoy life.

Find a new community. 

Ask for help. This is one of the more important things you can do to get past your pain and heartache.

Those who reach out for help always land on their feet, whereas those who try to go it alone end up suffering much more and don't do nearly as well. Over the years, I've watched many great people connect with other great people in my groups or workshops and go on to form close friendships. Some even find movie partners or travel companions.

Connecting with others in a similar place has brought these divorcees out of their isolation
and into mainstream life again. Spending a weekend with other women who are wanting to stay positive and take control of their destiny is the perfect remedy for people like Melissa.

Finally, here are some words of inspiration for you:

1. Don't quit before the miracle. 

2. It's darkest before the dawn. January will bring a renewed sense of hope for a bright future.

And this saying I came up with: 

3. Just because you can't see a solution doesn't mean there isn't one. 

ardalan hamedani / unsplash
Source: ardalan hamedani / unsplash

Hang in there. There is another side to this hard time you are experiencing. 

If you are feeling especially down, possibly even suicidal, please reach out for help to your church, your local mental health agency, or your emergency room. There are caring people out there who want to see you through your difficulties.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day in English and Spanish. Call 800-273-8255 or visit their website.

Have as good a holiday as you can this year and stay safe.

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory. 

No part of this publication may be reproduced without the express written permission of the author. Failure to comply with these terms may expose you to legal action and damages for copyright infringement.