Counsellor Sophie Spiegler answers your questions on loneliness
My dad died earlier this year. As it’s our first Christmas without him, I’m worried about my mum. She says she’s fine, but she’s not her usual self. How can I support her?
I’m sorry to hear of your loss, it sounds like Christmas may be a difficult time for your family. I’m wondering if you had any traditions that you did as a family that could pay special attention to this year, with the intention of remembering the good times. Supporting your mum, and yourself might include finding a balance between allowing grief to be present, as well as sharing in happy, joyful memories. If you have wider friends and family around you, it might be a nice idea to invite them round to join in on the festivities and sharing the happy memories of your father. Let them know what you need from them in advance too, so you can be clear about the support you want.
Me and my partner of eight years have recently separated. I’m dreading the festive season, especially the parties and social events. I just want to be alone, but I know that’s not really going to help me. What should I do?
It’s important to honour your feelings and perhaps give yourself time to feel sad and practice some self-care
I’m sorry to hear of your recent split. Christmas time can be difficult, balancing the expectations of others and the need to connect. Spending time with friends and family, with who you feel you can be authentic and honest with your feelings is important. If you find that you want to be alone, make sure you aren’t isolating yourself. Try and let in some of the joy of the season.
If you find that the pressure to be sociable and engage with parties is too much, it’s important to honour your feelings and perhaps give yourself small chunks of time to feel sad and practice some self-care around those feelings. Only you can tune into your own needs and begin to ask how to get them met.
My partner has gone back to work after his paternity leave. I’m finding it really difficult being on my own, especially with the days so dark, and none of my friends have children. What can I do?
Having a baby can be a really difficult time, and the lack of sleep, community and regular routine can send the strongest of women into dark places. If you can get out of the house, there are lots of playgroups that will allow you to connect with other new mums. Perhaps a mum and baby yoga class will also support in helping your body recover from pregnancy and birth.
When you’ve met a few people, set up a Whatsapp group to keep you connected, particularly for the days when getting out feels impossible.
At the same time as connecting, give yourself permission to enjoy these days and allow yourself to enter into the world of your baby. Let go of the pressure to ‘bounce back to your old life’ and see if you can give yourself permission to rest and bond. Reaching out to family and friends to support you at this time and letting them know what you need can also help.
I’m worried about my neighbour. He lost his wife not long ago and his family live far away. I have invited him over for dinner a few times, and he politely declines. I hate to think of him struggling alone. How can I make sure he’s OK?
That’s kind of you to be thinking about your neighbour. Perhaps you can let him know you are thinking of him, and let him know that while he is saying no now, the invitation is open should he change his mind and letting him know you care. Perhaps even inviting him in for a cup of tea might be a less daunting invite to him. Keeping an eye, asking him how he is and listening with patience and undistracted interest will all go a long way to help him feel cared for.
I’m working throughout December with not much time off. I’m at university and far from home. Most of my friends are going back during the break and I’m dreading spending weeks on my own, not knowing the area well. How can I feel more comfortable with my own company?
I’m sorry to hear you’re dreading time on your own, in a place that doesn’t feel familiar yet. Feeling comfortable in one’s own is a skill that takes practice and involves being in tune with your own needs, likes and dislikes. Setting the intention to get to know yourself can be a really good start. Exploring your tastes in music, art, books and possibly exploring your own creativity can be good places to start. Having a journal to write down your thoughts can be a really useful tool for navigating your own mind. It sounds like you could explore your local area too, as a way of feeling more comfortable in your surroundings.
Sophie’s Tips for Managing Loneliness
- Listen to your needs and honour them.
- If you want to connect, reach out to someone you trust and who cares for you.
- If you need to be in your own company, take the time to get to know yourself, through creativity, gentle loving self-talk and self-reflection.
Read more about loneliness on Counselling Directory
Sophie Spiegler (Dip, MBACP) is a psychotherapeutic counsellor, helping people who have been impacted by dysfunction in their lives.