Tonight during the BCSM Community (Breast Cancer and Social Media) tweet chat, we’ll be talking about facing the holidays with cancer. I’ve written lots of posts about coping throughout the holidays (you can find a recap here). But I love the angle that chat founder and moderator Jody Schoger presented. She asked me to explore with the group about the ways that the holidays can feel isolating when you are also dealing with breast cancer. To talk about feeling “alone in a holiday crowd.” And I couldn’t resist a post about that idea.
You’ve seen the commercials, or the made-for-TV-movies, or the holiday songs. And one of the big messages that gets conveyed this time of year is that the holidays are a time for family, connection, feeling included.
But if you are coping with illness, or grieving, or facing a job loss, or coping with a relationship loss, or dealing with complicated family dynamics, or, or, or–you get the idea. There are so very many reasons why that image of family togetherness might not feel like it includes you. Because whatever it is that you are facing right now, it means that you feel cut off from the crowd. You might even be in a situation that looks like a holiday commercial, but inside your head and heart, you feel alone in the wilderness.
If that sounds familiar, you aren’t entirely alone. You’re having a feeling that many people share.
All right, we’ve established that feeling alone at the holidays isn’t unique for you. So then what?
First of all, let’s explore your sense of feeling alone. Is your feeling of loneliness a reaction to a lack of supportive people in your life? Or are there plenty of people who care, but none who can listen well to your frustration with chemo, or understand your lack of energy, or sit with you when you need to vent? Do you feel silenced because you don’t want to “ruin the holiday” for others?
Journaling, either in a notebook or a blog, can be a powerful tool to help you explore and express your feelings.
Once you better understand the source of your feelings, then it’s time to engage in some self-care. Here are a few possibilities to lessen the sense of isolation and loneliness.
- Look for a support community where others understand your illness or loss. Often, these communities try to provide extra support at this time of year.
- Reach out to a most-trusted family member or friend and ask for some time to just speak your truth without being “cheered up.”
- Offer your time or talents as a volunteer. There are so many opportunities this time of year, and offering of yourself provides a unique point of connection.
- Use the time to reconnect with yourself. Is there a skill you’ve been meaning to learn, or a book that’s been on your “to-read” list?
- Use a practice such as a gratitude journal to help you notice and remember the moments that you do appreciate.
- If you are really struggling, reach out to me or another mental health professional.
During a time of year where “togetherness” is celebrated (or mandated), feeling alone is natural–particularly when you are facing the hard things in life. I hope that this post reminds you that there are ways to remedy that if it begins to get overwhelming.