The Holidays Are Time to Rethink Our Relationship With Loneliness

How can we bring ‘holiday orphans’ together without it doing more harm than good?

Caren Lissner
GEN

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Photo: Gillian Henry/Getty Images

II see them every year, without exception, starting around Thanksgiving — three or four (never fewer) Facebook posts from friends and acquaintances who are disappointed they’ll be alone for the holidays. They don’t want to impose on their friends (they say it’s demoralizing to feel “like a charity case”), yet they’re frustrated that they have to remind relatives (if they have them) to reach out. These self-described “holiday orphans” are isolated for various reasons. In some cases, alienation or complex relationships divided their families, but in others, relatives simply didn’t bother to ask if the person had somewhere to go.

It’s likely there are others who wish they had holiday plans but feel too embarrassed to express it online, since admitting loneliness is sadly seen, by some, as more shameful than a criminal act. The twisted irony is that according to recent research, they’re not alone.

Experts now use the phrase “loneliness epidemic” to describe modern social isolation, which is not simply isolation from other people, but from people whom individuals feel they can rely on or who truly know them.

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Caren Lissner
GEN
Writer for

Author of nerdy novel CARRIE PILBY (film version‘s on Netflix). Finishing up offbeat memoir. Love dogs & puns. Read more: http://carenlissner.com.