Christmas without family: How to prevent loneliness

Becky Banham
By Becky Banham,
updated on Dec 1, 2020

Christmas without family: How to prevent loneliness

Many of us are worried about our mental health and not being able to see loved ones over the festive period, Samaritans reveals

Christmas can be a tough time for some, even without a global pandemic to deal with. But, with restrictions on socialising this year, separation from family and loved ones is one of the biggest concerns facing Samaritans callers this Christmas, the charity’s latest research shows.

A survey with over 1,400 of the charity’s volunteers found that around a quarter who took part (27%) have spoken to people who were feeling concerned about their wellbeing over the winter period.

The charity’s volunteers said that the most common worries were about being separated from family and loved ones, and how they will cope with being lonely during Christmas or having to spend Christmas on their own.

Other common concerns include worrying about the wellbeing of loved ones who are already feeling lonely as a result of restrictions, and the impact of colder weather and shorter days. Volunteers also said that people were feeling concerned about their financial situation, with many questioning if they will be able to pay bills and buy presents.

Samaritans volunteers have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure their vital service is available around the clock for anyone who needs help. Since lockdown in March, volunteers have provided emotional support over one million times via phone, email and letters.

Last Christmas, Samaritans responded to over a quarter of a million calls for help and over 10,000 calls for help came on Christmas Day alone.

No one should struggle alone, and Samaritans is encouraging people to look out for anyone who may be feeling lonely or isolated as we head into the festive season.

Samaritans CEO Julie Bentley said: “It has been an unprecedented year with the pandemic affecting so many people’s health and wellbeing. It would be a tragedy if we weren’t there for those in distress.

“We know that people struggle more at Christmas, as it’s a time when loneliness can really hit home. Regardless of what happens with Covid restrictions, we want people to know that confidential support is available 24/7, and that we are there for everyone.”

How to prevent loneliness this Christmas

If you can’t be physically present with someone you love this Christmas, we know how difficult it feels right now. Here are some tips to help you prepare for a different festive period and to help you feel connected, even from afar.

Talk more

It’s essential to look after our mental health - and the mental health of others - by continuing to check in on anyone who may be struggling. Talking is good - whether it’s with a friend, family member, a qualified therapist or a confidential helpline like Samaritans.

It might be helpful to plan phone or video calls in advance, so you can both have something to look forward to.

Plan to do things you enjoy

If the thought of a very different festive period feels upsetting right now, it’s easy to forget all the things you love about Christmas that you can still do. Try to embrace some of your old traditions, and even make some new ones this year, if you can.

If you can’t be with your loved ones to go for a walk together on Christmas day, why not arrange a time to go for a walk and phone them? “Just because we can’t go out for regular, socially distanced, walks at the moment, it doesn’t mean we can’t bring our loved ones along with us,” says counsellor Catherine Beach.

“Have you thought of live streaming your walk to the woods? Just be sure to mind the trees, lampposts, roads, etc when recording!”

Woman talking on the phone whilst walking next to fairy lights

Reach out if you need support

No matter how bad you feel, you are important and you deserve to be happy.

Remember, Samaritans is there for anyone struggling - available to listen 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They won’t judge or tell you what to do. You can call for free on 116 123, email [email protected] or visit for more information.

Or, you could try talking to a qualified counsellor. While online counselling is different from a standard face-to-face session, it allows you to access help whenever and wherever you are.

Counselling Directory currently lists more than 15,000 online therapists who are ready and available to help you navigate this difficult time.

Thousands of dedicated Samaritans volunteers will be helping people to cope over the festive period, with around 1,500 expected to make themselves available on Christmas Day alone.

The charity is asking people to send a Christmas gift to help Samaritans continue to be there for those who need emotional support. Making a donation for as little as £5 will help Samaritans answer a call for help from somebody struggling this Christmas.

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