Alone for the Holidays?

While continuing to curate the One-Minute Grace (OMG) for the Holidays series, I got an intuitive nudge to write an extra post for those who are single and alone, finding this time of the year especially challenging. If this doesn’t apply to you, you can stop reading now. :-)

Painfully alone during the Holidays

pine treeOne week before Thanksgiving Day 15 years ago, I went to court to finalize my divorce. That Holiday Season was excruciatingly painful. I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out again. It seemed that the world around me was in celebration mode, and everyone was happy and loved, while I was scraping by one day at a time with a gaping hole in my chest. Despite my marriage ending officially, I had objective reasons to celebrate—I was about to get my Ph.D. and begin a new life in January as a Cornell professor. However, at the time, celebrating was the last thing I wanted to do; the pain and grief in my life was overwhelming. I felt utterly ashamed for having failed in my marriage and completely alone.

I shared the above piece of personal history to let you know that I understand firsthand how difficult this time of the year can be for anyone who feels alone and seemingly excluded from the joy of the season. The loneliness of being single is palpable, especially when you’ve yearned for that special someone with whom to build a life. If you’re single again because of divorce, separation or death, it’s an additional layer of loss to pile on top of the loneliness. I know how truly awful it feels. It really sucks!

With all that said, I’m not about to tell you to stuff your feelings, or to suggest that you put a fake happy face on your life that isn’t presently what your heart desires. What I am about to do is to share a few lessons I’ve learned through the years I’ve been single and wishing I weren’t—especially during the Holidays, which seem particularly cruel to the unattached. If you find these lessons challenging to absorb, don’t feel badly; instead, please do honor where you are. I invite you to check out the 5 weeks of daily tips from the One-Minute Grace for the Holidays series in process for ideas to help make it easier to move through this Holiday Season.

To get through the Holidays—and the days before and after—with Grace as a single, I’ve learned that the overarching lesson to master is the appreciation of single life, instead of loathing and rejecting it like a malignant tumor. Every stage in life is valid, valuable, and what it is. There are gifts and blessings in any stage, even if the wrapper around it is challenging to appreciate at face value. Under the umbrella of this “super” lesson are 4 specific prongs.

Prong #1: Honor where we are and how we feel


It’s important to be honest with ourselves about where we are and honor the feelings that come with it. Between a basic human desire to bond with another and living in a world that doesn’t celebrate singlehood, acknowledge the loneliness and feelings of being left out as a single. This is especially true if we’re newly separated, divorced or widowed. Grief and pain are natural and unavoidable parts of the human experience, especially when losses are involved. We really can’t rush through the grieving and healing process, no matter how much we don’t want to be with the dreaded feelings. When we’re literally in the eye of the storm, all we can do is to dig deep and find our best to stay afloat. We can’t expect ourselves to do beyond what’s our best.

Prong #2. Appreciate being unencumbered

Another lesson I’ve learned is that, until we appreciate what we have, life won’t give us more. When we reject life, we reject that which to hold the good we desire. If we adopt the tunnel vision of seeing life as good only once we’re with that special someone, we miss recognizing and appreciating the blessings and gifts we already have. Yes, singlehood actually is a blessing and bears gifts.

Don’t think there’s anything good about being single? Just ask a frazzled mom or someone whose spouse is suffering from chronic illness or a major setback for an extended period of time. Yes, they have a spouse and family they love dearly and wouldn’t trade for anything. But life is far from rosy. From their vantage point, what singles have is a priceless luxury—the unencumbered time and space to do whatever we want to do, and the freedom to be whatever we want to be. And, we aren’t even talking about those who are in unhappy relationships and seeing the grass being greener on the other side—our side.

So, while it isn’t wrong to want a partner, nor is it necessary to deny feelings of loneliness, it’s extremely valuable to gain perspective on the bright side of being unattached and unencumbered.

being love

Prong #3: Don’t put life on hold

For a long time, I put many things I wanted to experience on hold, waiting to share them with a mate. While many experiences are indeed more enjoyable when shared, if we put off doing what we want to do, we’re also putting off the enjoyment of it. That’s part of what perpetuates the “blah” of being single. So, I’ve learned that it’s important not to put life on hold. When we’re fully engaged in the life we want to live, there aren’t holes waiting to be filled by someone else. We reclaim our power to be happy that we’ve unknowingly given away by believing that we can’t be happy until we’re coupled up and perhaps have the family we want.

This isn’t a call to commit to singlehood for good. Rather, it’s about committing to living fully and being happy NOW.

Prong #4: Be love

One big lesson I’ve been internalizing is this: We attract who we are, not what we claim we want. This is how the laws of the Universe work indiscriminantly for everyone. Therefore, what’s ours to do is to cultivate our ability to be love—to embody and express the qualities for which we wish to be loved. Want someone to be loving to us? We have to be loving first—to ourselves and others. Want someone spiritual? How are we tending to our own spirituality? Want someone kind? What are the different ways we are kind, and how may we continue to spread kindness?

The Holiday Season is a great time to become what we feel is missing in our single life.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When you feel alone and left out during this Holiday Season, try to bring some awareness to what you’re feeling, and ask yourself:

  1. What can I do to honor the feelings I have right now that I don’t necessarily want?
  2. What have I been able to do because I’m free and unencumbered? Can I think of anyone who wishes they could be me and have my freedom?
  3. What have I been putting off doing because I’m waiting for the guy/gal? What can I start doing NOW to live fully and be happy?
  4. What are the top 5 qualities I wish for in a partner? What am I doing to cultivate those qualities in myself?

Over to you, what are you ready to do to move through the Holidays as a single?


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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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