Christmas and its festivities are centred around family. Pre occupied as we are with the preparations, the shopping and the numerous activities leading up to it, we who have family tend to forget, that there are lonely people out there, who would dearly love to be in the company of others at this festive period.

I recall clearly one Christmas Eve, in the mid 1980's. I was requested to see a patient as a Home Consultation. It was a cold sunny winter afternoon. I drove down the already deserted roads to the house in the small quaint Lincolnshire village, where she lived. I was greeted at the door by a woman in her 60's. She looked unwell , and lived on her own with her pet budgerigar. She had no relatives. She was lonely, extremely anxious and she was in Heart Failure. She required admission to hospital, which I arranged. On Christmas
Loneliness at Christmas
Dr Remy Perumal retired
Consultant Physician & Freelance Journalist

"The most terrible Poverty is Loneliness and the feeling of being unloved" - Mother Theresa

day when I saw her on my ward round, she was relaxed, cheerful and seemed extremely happy to be amongst other patients and hospital staff. Her heart failure improved steadily during course of the next few days. When she was medically fit, she was pleased to return to her home and the pet Budgerigar. - she was discharged home on New Year's Eve. This lonely women certainly enjoyed Christmas, being with other people, although she was in hospital.

             Alone and Lonely

Today, the social landscape is changing. Loneliness is a problem not only with the older age groups, but across the spectrum. Family bonds are absolutely essential to prevent tragic abandonment of people to lonely lives. These ties of kinship are fracturing, resulting in more and more people being abandoned when they are old and frail. Also, recent figures have revealed that an ever increasing number of middle aged men and women too, are living alone. This disturbing trend is due largely to the baleful effects of family breakdown and damage done to the links between generations.

Independence is what modern society values above all else. It is seen as essential to fulfilling one's potential without being influenced by anyone else. Also, as women match men on the salary front and no longer need a partner to provide for them, the numbers of single middle aged women will

continue to increase. However, these sassy, single, "twenty some things" out there, will in their 40's, be thinking to themselves, that, their time alone accounts for the best part of the week.

Therefore, those living alone in the modern era range from the Elderly through to the divorced and separated, the bereaved and the single unmarried.

Financial circumstances will have an additional bearing on the plight of loneliness, but those who are materially secure too, will find living alone has lost its gloss and impending loneliness a daunting future prospect.

In contrast to loneliness, solitude is a positive state of engagement with oneself. Therefore, living alone is not synonymous with loneliness. Some choose to be alone - solitude is their choice.
However, Christmas is a magical occasion, a time to reconnect with loved ones. Be it the traditional celebration of the Birth of Christ or an annual exercise of collective mania, friends and family tend to get together for the festivities. Those unfortunate to be left alone in front of the 'box' trying to create a semblance of what would have been, is sad. For them, the festive season will be unwelcome and they would prefer it to "soon pass".

Spare a though for those who are lonely at Christmas. They may be old and infirm, bereaved without family, separated, divorced or single, they may be affluent or poor, still the same, they may be alone and lonely. Include them if you can. Spread some Christmas Cheer and bring
"Joy to their World too"

With Best Wishes
for a Merry Xmas
and a Happy New

"Where there is love, there is
   Mahatma Gandhi