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Alone for the holidays? There are plenty of ways to find joy

By Patti Ewald, Times Correspondent
Published: November 22, 2017 Updated: November 23, 2017 at 11:10 PM
Shutterstock You can have a happy holiday even if you don't find yourself gathered around the family table with all the trimmings.

The words in the Craigslist ad are heartbreaking.

"Do you know anyone out there that goes years and years being alone for the holidays?" it reads.

"No family. No traditions. No one to eat dinner with.

"If you are willing to open up your home to a person like me Ö I would love to hear from you!"

Running an ad to find a family with which to spend the holidays shows how sad and lonely some people get this time of year.

Itís tough to avoid trying to get in the holiday spirit.

Stores are bedecked in full Christmas regalia even before the ghosts of Halloween disappear. Thereís an overwhelming desire to feel that elusive holiday joy we once felt ó or dreamed about.

Pssst. Hereís a secret. Finding the holiday spirit is elusive to many of us. Even those who arenít sad and lonely can find it hard to feel the kind of exuberance the Griswold family sought in the movie Christmas Vacation.

"Weíre kicking off our fun, old-fashioned family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols," Clark Griswold says to his family packed in the station wagon ó and not happy about it ó on their way to cut down a tree.

Hard as Clark (Chevy Chase) tries to create the perfect holiday, itís one disaster after another. (If watching this movie isnít yet a tradition for you, this year is a great time to start.)

Understanding why the holidays make some people feel lonely is the place to begin feeling better.

"Holidays are always a time of the year that help bring loved ones and families together. But, when those special people in oneís life live at a distance or are unable to be a part of the holidays, it can make celebrating more difficult," said Genevieve Faulk, a licensed clinical social worker and owner of Aging Care Advocates Inc. The agency provides services for the elderly throughout the Tampa Bay area.

Older adults have an especially hard time, she said. In addition to mourning the loss of loved ones, they are also often separated from the family they have left.

But, many can find joy celebrating within their communities.

"One of the easiest ways to help celebrate within the community is to look for community or senior centers that are offering holiday meals," Faulk said. The meals are often affordable and, more importantly, provide a social outlet for those who are alone.

Older adults living in senior communities can also find joy and companionship by sharing a meal.

"Why not spend it together by having a festive potluck?" Faulk said. Itís not only a way to have a great meal without doing it all yourself, itís also a way to make new traditions, new memories and new friends.

Or, people who are lonely can find joy by bringing joy to others.

"Another great way to celebrate the holidays is to help give back to the community," Faulk said. There are many organizations, such as Meals on Wheels, that can use extra help during the busy holiday season.

"These are all fun, easy ways to get out of oneís normal daily routine and to enjoy the holiday. They all provide some social aspect to keep from feeling alone during the holiday season," she said.

Contact Patti Ewald at [email protected]