Holidays can be especially difficult if your life and relationships have been turned upside-down following an incident of domestic violence. You may be separated from your spouse or partner, unable to see your kids, or are being shunned by your friends and family. Surviving loneliness, rejection, and loss during the holidays is challenging because they are supposed to be times of joy spent with the ones we love.

Facing a lonely holiday

A few years ago, I was facing spending the Thanksgiving holiday alone. My kids were with their mom, my mother was working, and my wife and I were separated after my acts of domestic violence. I was dreading the day and the prospects of being alone on a holiday.

The church I’d been attending announced they were having a Thanksgiving worship service followed by a meal, and invited everyone to come. Who goes to church on Thanksgiving, I wondered: losers who have no other place to go? I might as well wear a sign that says “Reject” on it, I thought with a large dose of self-pity.

I might as well wear a sign that says “Reject” on it.

Thanksgiving morning came, and surprisingly, I had a very different thought—one that did not seem like my own. Others attending would probably share some of my same emotions—isolation, rejection, hurt—just surviving loneliness themselves. “What if I went, greeted, smiled at, and talked to those others like I was glad that they were there?” this foreign thought suggested.

That perspective changed my focus away from thinking about myself, what I wanted, and what I was missing, into what I could do to make someone else’s day better. Now I had a purpose. Rather than dreading the holiday and mocking the idea of going to church, I was a little bit excited about it.

To keep this story short, I went and talked to a few people at my table during the meal. They didn’t seem like down-on-their luck losers, but I still sensed they were glad I said “hi” and carried on a conversation with them. I not only had a good meal, but was able to enjoy the company of some nice people. No one asked me why I was alone.

An antidote for surviving loneliness

That Thanksgiving meal is the most memorable one of my life. Not because of the food, or even the conversation, but because of the lesson I learned. When we switch our focus off ourselves and onto others, we end up making our own lives better. The experience was far better than eating turkey, watching football games, or getting an amazing Black Friday shopping deal.

I challenge you to do the same, especially if you are feeling down on your luck, lonely, or isolated. Don’t focus on yourself or the people you can’t be with. Look for people who could use a friendly smile, some company, or a helping hand, then give them yours.

Look for people who could use a friendly smile, some company, or a helping hand, then give them yours.

It doesn’t have to be at a church, but it could be. A veteran’s home, nursing home, homeless shelter, or food bank will usually welcome visitors or need volunteers. Do it with no expectation of anything in return—and don’t be creepy about it—just be genuine in greeting people. Then watch what happens, not only to them, but inside you. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you discover you are not only surviving loneliness, but feeling valuable and connected to others.

Faith note

Did you know that you and I were created on purpose, for a purpose? Each of us has a special role to play, but all those roles generally fit under the umbrella of “making this world better”. We can do that and serve others just by being friendly or sitting with someone who otherwise would be alone.

The idea of serving someone is a very different message than we get from culture, where getting great service is the objective. As you get to know God, however, you’ll discover he calls us to give great service. His instructions not only help us in surviving loneliness, but they bless us when we embrace them.

God calls us to give great service so we can be blessed.

God knows how you and I are made, because he made us. He knows how the world, relationships, and life work because he invented those, too. Given that, it shouldn’t surprise us that we can trust his instructions of how to make the best of whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.