Dealing with Christmas loneliness.
“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
You’re pretty creative, smart people. No doubt, you sometimes feel lonely: entrepreneurship can be a lonely place. On the other hand, as a businessperson, you know that taking action cures almost anything.
Concentrating your organisational abilities on relieving others’ loneliness is a sure way of ensuring you are not lonely yourself.
Anecdotal evidence is clear that Christmas is a particularly painful time for several groups of people who experience loneliness throughout the year. The elderly, widows and widowers, single parents, those with disabilities, single people, millennials, teenagers, those in care homes.
In 2018, Age UK found that more than half a million people over 65 expected to be isolated and feel lonely at Christmas; many hadn’t seen or spoken to any family or friends for over a month.
I treat it as another project, reaching out to those who might be lonely in my patch. Our neighbourhood, for example, has a few single people living on their own. We set up a WhatsApp Group, ostensibly as a neighbourhood watch, but it’s real purpose was to maintain contact.
I also take inspiration from my 34 year old son who has a busy role as a crown servant in the Palace of Westminster. He has befriended an elderly man. He meets and talks to him for two hours every week and drops some food and presents in just before Christmas, as well as ensuring he will not be alone.
In our town of 17,000 people, our Community Assembly has identified, as a group initiative, nearly 150 individuals vulnerable to isolation over Christmas. Some do prefer their own company but have appreciated us reaching out to them. For those who want company, we will do our best to match them up with other people for the festive days.
Could you find time to do something similar? There is no template for ameliorating loneliness. Each situation may need a different solution. You may live in a block of flats, a terrace or a shared house. In your neighbourhood, there are people to reach out to and check on their arrangements for Christmas.
My loneliest Christmas was as an Army Officer in Germany. I drew the short straw as garrison duty officer for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I had a round of inspections and checks to perform, inspect the guard and audit security and logs.
It was a cold December and my hat, gloves and greatcoat barely kept the icy wind at bay. My sleep was punctuated by a middle-of the-night drive in a draughty Land Rover to count ammunition stores, particularly nuclear warheads!
I had a driver and interacted with many people but human contact was brief and formal. Any military staff present were also on duty. Everyone else was on holiday leave.
I stopped by the barracks Mess Hall and chatted to the duty cooks. The one moment of human warmth was sharing a huge mug of coffee, freshly-ground and filtered, with the catering staff.
I envied the warm, gemütlichkeit German households I saw fleetingly. There were no mobile phones or means of contacting family in the UK. I was single and living in the Officers Mess.
I am throwing down a gantlet for you to at least be concerned about loneliness on your doorstep. If you are a business that is very busy over the festive period, then delegate your effort to a less busy relative or friend.
As Charles Dickens wrote, the common welfare is my business.
There are a couple of charities worth mentioning:
Befriending Networks provides befriending support to everyone who needs it. They offer support, training and guidance to hundreds of befriending projects across the UK and raise awareness about the ways befriending reduces social isolation and loneliness by improving wellbeing.
The Samaritans have a free helpline for anyone really struggling which can be called at 116 123 (in the UK) 24 hours a day, if anyone needs someone to listen non-judgementally.
Jeremy runs a web design business which links to virtual departments and other professionals: central admin in Dorking, technical and studio in Cairo. They specialise in websites that are magnets for sales leads. He has served as an Army officer, paramedic, PR consultant and copywriter and is passionate about freehand, modern calligraphy. He has advised organisations on governance by consent (not consensus), often called sociocracy. He founded and runs a local Community Assembly which deals with matters that the local councils allow to fall between the cracks, including homelessness and loneliness, and holding authorities to account for their unlawful actions during Covid lockdowns. He has won several awards for his short stories.