Surviving the holidays alone – tips for the military family

  • Published
  • By Sarina Houston
  • 3rd Flying Training Squadron key spouse
The holidays can often bring about feelings of loneliness, especially when a loved one is deployed or we're away from family members.

If you've ever spent Christmas alone, you know what I'm talking about. Maybe your husband was deployed for Christmas a time or two. Or maybe you just decided it's not worth the cost of airline tickets for the whole family to fly home for Christmas.

Whatever the reason, at one time or another, we find ourselves alone over the holidays, whether "alone" means without a spouse, without children or without extended family.

Yes, of course we have our military family. And it's a good one to have, but it doesn't always replace your own family when Christmastime rolls around. So if you're spending Christmas alone this year, here are a few survival tips to help you get by.

Grieve, and move on

Yes, grieve. Grieve over the fact that you can't see your deployed partner or your great aunt Shirley this year. Acknowledge that it's an awful thing to have to spend the holiday without your family, even complain about it once or twice, but then make the decision to move on. Lament about the terribleness of it all and then forget about it.

Make other plans

Don't isolate yourself. Accept the invitation when your neighbor invites you over for dinner. Ask a new friend over for coffee. If it's Christmas Day that is difficult for you, make plans to visit friends or a church group that day. Staying busy will take your mind off of the loneliness.

Do something nice

If you find yourself wishing you had a meal to cook or a party to go to, cook the meal and find a party to go to! Perhaps you could donate a meal to a needy neighbor or help at a homeless shelter. Or maybe you could offer to host a party for a group of friends.

If you'd rather do something a little more low-key, bring an unsuspecting gift to a friend or help an elderly neighbor put up Christmas lights. Helping others can take the focus off ourselves and helps us gain perspective.

Start a tradition

There's a good chance you already have a tradition or two for the holidays. But if you're missing out on the fun of your family's holiday traditions back home, start something similar with your own kids.

If your husband is deployed and you don't have kids, start a tradition among your military friends. Maybe it's time to start a Secret Santa game, ornament exchange or neighborhood potluck.

Count your blessings

At the end of the day, is spending the holidays alone really a bad thing? Instead of thinking about everything you're missing at grandma's house, try to find the silver lining. You won't be stuck at an airport for hours because of weather delays. You don't have to endure hours of family gossip.

And if your husband were home, he'd probably spend his free time tinkering with his car. I know, I know -- that would still beat a deployment! But you get the point.

Plus, a few days with your entire family in one place would leave you wishing for more alone time, right?

If you're alone this holiday season, remember to look at the bright side: A military family is better than no family at all.

Sarina is the Key Spouse for the 3rd Flying Training Squadron and is married to Capt. Jacob Houston in the 71st Flying Training Wing Safety Office at Vance AFB.