Surviving the Holidays Alone
Military separations on any given day are hard, but they can be especially difficult during the holidays. If your service member is deployed or on an unaccompanied tour right now, it’s understandable if you’re feeling like the Grinch this holiday season.
The good news is the holiday season and deployments/unaccompanied tours always come to an end. But until then, if you ‘re wanting to fast-forward through this month’s festivities, please keep reading. This blog contains a few coping mechanisms to help you get through and, possibly, enjoy the holiday season solo.
Here are a few recommendations:
- Surround yourself with family or friends, if possible.
If it’s feasible, visit extended family or have them visit you this season. Being in the presence of loved ones and enjoying food and fellowship will provide the support and encouragement needed during this time. If visiting with family is not an option this year, arrange to spend the holidays with friends who have become like family to you. Neighbors, coworkers and others you’ve grown close to in your area can be a source of strength and companionship over the holidays.
- Observe the holidays with your service member when he or she returns.
Celebrate the holidays twice – once without your service member and again when he or she comes home. No need to take down the decorations. Your holiday traditions can resume or begin again when they return.
- Start a new holiday tradition.
If carrying out holiday traditions without your service member seems daunting, create a new activity to partake in with your children, friends, or extended family. Here are a few ideas:
- Bake a new dessert to go with your holiday meal.
- Watch a holiday movie you haven’t seen before. Check out our list of holiday movies you won’t want to miss this season!
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen/food bank in your area.
- Donate items to a local shelter.
- Make goodie bags to give to the homeless in your area. Fill up Ziploc storage bags with small bottles of mouthwash, dental floss, granola bars, and handwritten notes to spread holiday cheer to those less fortunate. Having a new focus or change in routine can be a welcome distraction from one’s own circumstances.
- Lean into your faith.
Whatever your belief system is, put it into practice for peace of mind and mental strength, and endurance.
- Contact a mental health professional.
It is a sign of strength — not weakness — to reach out for mental health assistance. If you experience prolonged feelings of depression, loneliness and/or despair, please seek out a licensed counselor or chaplain in your area. Here are a few other mental health resources specifically for military families:
- Military OneSource offers free and confidential virtual, telephonic or in-person appointments with licensed counselors. Please call 800-342-9647 or visit www.militaryonesource.mil to schedule an appointment. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Cohen Veterans Network provides confidential, mental health care for military families. Services are offered at no-to-low-cost. Tricare insurance is accepted. Specialized therapy is available for depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and marriage and relationship counseling. To schedule a virtual or in-person appointment, please call 844-336-4226 or visit https://www.cohenveteransnetwork.org/our-care/#form.
- Telemynd offers telebehavioral (video conferencing) health services. Their most commonly treated areas of care are anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and couples therapy. Services are available to Tricare beneficiaries with no predetermined amount of sessions per calendar year. Referrals are not required for Tricare Prime active-duty family members or retirees.
To request an appointment, please visit https://www.telemynd.com/military to fill out the online registration form or call the care support line at 866-991-2103.
- Consult other resources for survival tips.
Besides this blog, there have been countless articles and books written on this topic. Reading about others’ experiences can help you navigate through your situation. Here are a few online articles with additional tips for surviving the holidays alone:
- Saundra Montijo, a Midwest-based writer, shares 8 Strategies for Spending the Holidays Solo in her blog on PsychCentral.
- Sarina Houston, an Air Force spouse, shares tips for the military family spending the holidays alone in an article that was featured on the Vance Air Force Base website.
- NoraLee Jones, a Navy Mom, shares strategies for surviving the holidays when your service member is deployed in an article in the Auburn Examiner newspaper.
- Rebekah Sanderlin, a military spouse, and writer for Military.com shares her advice on How to Handle the Holidays Alone.
We hope something has been shared here that will help make this season bright and your holidays happy even in the absence of your service member. Remember, other spouses have been in your shoes and survived the holidays solo and you will, too!
By: Yolanda Conrad,
Concierge Agent, MNSPCS