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4 Ways to Help Lonely Friends Over the Holidays

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We are conditioned to think of the holiday season as merry and bright. The scent of fresh-baked cookies fills the air, people seem to smile just a little bit brighter and twinkling lights line the streets. How can the holiday season be anything but magical?

For people coping with loss of a loved one, a recent divorce or loss of a relationship, a spouse deployed in the military or various other stressors, the holidays can actually be a very lonely time.

While it might seem like reaching out for support is the easy the answer, consider this: people, for the most part, get wrapped up in the busyness of the season. We all have our own traditions. We all have family to see, presents to wrap and functions to attend. In short, we forget about our friends on the outskirts.

It’s difficult to ask for help when you know that others are busy being so merry and bright. We’ve endured Thanksgiving with my husband on the road. You don’t want to seek invitations because you know that holiday time is family time, and you want to respect that. On the other hand, it can be very hard to be alone when the rest of the world is caught up in celebration.

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Your lonely friend might not ask you for help this holiday season, but you can help your friend just by being present.

1. Check in.

A weekly phone call or frequent text messages can make a big difference in the life of a friend alone during the busy holiday season. Social isolation can leave people feeling sad, anxious and overwhelmed.

Reaching out a couple of times a week, even if you end up getting the voicemail, provides a much-needed lifeline and break from the social isolation that can feel all encompassing at times.

2. Make time.

Life certainly does get busy during the holiday season. Whether you are traveling or staying put, chances are you have a long to-do list to tackle — in addition to the many school functions that seem to pop up all at once.

Make time for your friend. Schedule a time to walk together.` to combat feelings of sadness and loneliness, and it can also reduce your stress level. Making time to walk and talk will benefit both you and your friend during the holiday season (and all year long).

A few other ideas? Tackle the to-do list together! Do your holiday shopping or baking as a team, wrap gifts together or lick and stamp those holiday card envelopes side-by-side.

3. Encourage giving.

Helping others is a mood booster. Both kids and adults experience improved moods after helping those in need. Consider getting your families together to participate in a holiday giving project.

People have a tendency to set unrealistic expectations when it comes to giving back, and that actually makes it difficult to find the time to give back. You don’t have to feed every family, but you can feed one. You don’t have to buy gifts for every family in need, but you can help one. Small acts of kindness and charity are every bit as important as grand gestures. Even something as simple as having all of the kids create and deliver cards to the elderly can really brighten spirits all around.

4. Extend an invitation.

Yes, the holiday season is about family. But for people left behind, coping with divorce or separation or living far away from family, often your close friends become your family.

RELATED: True Christmas Miracles

Your friend might not take you up on that offer to join your holiday celebration, but I can assure you that she will appreciate the invitation. When we include others, what we are saying is this: We care about you and we want you with us.

Feeling included helps decrease that dreaded social isolation that can spike feelings of loneliness during what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year.

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