By Amber Johnson
Though the holiday season may be filled with joy and love, for some IPV survivors there may be intense feelings of loneliness during the holidays. Surviving IPV may mean living away from family and friends which can become even more apparent during the holidays. Also, feelings of shame and guilt may isolate survivors of IPV, causing them to feel emotionally distant even when surrounded by friends and family. Making it through the holidays without a significant other to share traditions with can make the holidays stressful.
Here are several tips to help you work through the loneliness you may feel during the holiday season
1. Live By Your OWN Expectations
Many people measure their own happiness during the holidays based on the happiness displayed by those around them, in the media, and on television. Further, social media can often portray images of happiness and success that we may feel we can never achieve. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness when our own happiness doesn’t measure up to what we are observing around them. What we may observe in the media, on TV, or even social media only give highlights of others’ lives. Comparing your life with a limited glimpse you have others’ lives can deepen feelings anger, isolation, and loneliness. One of the ways to combat this is to define your own expectations. Some questions you could ask yourself are: What makes you happy? What are you grateful for? What are you comfortable with? Asking yourself these questions will allow you to focus on you and help you to define your own expectations during the holidays.
2. Get connected with other IPV survivors
Though sometimes you may experience loneliness even when you are around friends and family, this loneliness can be reduced when surrounding yourself with people who share a common experience, such as IPV. You can attend a holiday social with IPV survivors, call or email another IPV survivor you know, or connect with a local support group or a social media group to stay connected to IPV survivors. Though these feelings may persist, it is harder to feel lonely with a good support circle.
3. Understand and Accept your Feelings
Though IPV survivors may experience loneliness, the root cause for loneliness is not always a result of IPV. Feelings of loneliness are complex and different for each individual. That is why it always important to examine your own feelings either on your own or with a mental health professional. You may consider the driving forces behind your loneliness, such as living far away from social groups, or feelings of not being relatable with peers. Once you understand your feelings of loneliness, you can work toward fully addressing those feelings.
The holidays are the perfect time to give back to those may be less fortunate than you. One of the best ways to address loneliness is to help others. In some instances, this may give survivors a sense of hope and optimism. Volunteering allows survivors to be active in their community while making a difference. Before you know it, you will be taking on the true spirit of the holidays!
Amber Johnson is a doctoral student in the Department of Public Health Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Amber’s current interest focuses on the health consequences of shame endured by women on a systemic level, particularly among racial/ethnic minority women. She is interested in Community-Based Participatory Research and establishing effective partnerships with community members. She also seeks to find ways to lessen the differential power of researchers and community members. She will be on track to finish her PhD in May 2016.