Home Alone
By Resna Marie Brunson, MSC

Macaulay Culkin’s character, Kevin, became a household name after the release of the 1990 classic comedy Christmas movie, Home Alone. Kevin, a mischievous eight year old, is accidentally left home alone when his family travels to France for the Christmas holiday. He becomes a hero after single handedly warding off burglars in his home. Like many holiday movies, there is a happy ending when Kevin is reunited with his family. For various reasons, some find themselves home alone during the holidays. Those who are totally enmeshed with all the festivities of the season may find it incomprehensible for someone to be alone during this time of year. We may feel the need to help by presenting all the reasons why someone should not be alone. We want to be the giver of comfort and joy. We want to give them a happy ending. In a previous post “Comforting Others” I suggested we are better comforters when we are truly other’s focused and seek to understand what others need as opposed to what we think is best for them. Being curious about the reason a person is alone will help us to better understand how we can support them.

Some are alone by choice for the holiday. There are moments when we need to step away and remove ourselves from the hustle and bustle of life. For some, a holiday can be a time for a personal retreat. For them, being alone is not necessarily being lonely. It is a time to process and reflect.

Some are alone because they have nowhere to go. While attending an adoption conference, I heard the testimony of a young man who lived in several foster homes until he was 18 years old. Because he was never adopted he “aged out of the system.” He did not think about being alone for the holidays until his freshman year in college and was asked by many classmates, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” He was faced with the reality, he had no home to go to.

Some have alienated themselves from family and friends and now find themselves isolated and lonely. There does not seem to be a way to bridge the gap between them and others and there are no hopes of reconciliation.

Although we may want to rescue each person in these scenarios and give them a dose of the “holiday spirit” , what they need more is empathy. Empathy does not try to change a person’s situation, or tell someone what they should do, or insist someone think, feel, or behave a certain way. Empathy does not feel sorry for the person. Instead empathy listens and seeks to understand what the person is feeling. Empathy is curious but not pushy, Empathy is not presumptuous. Empathy is totally present and willing to sit in the moment without expectation.

There is a homeless woman who stands at the same intersection everyday. At times I will offer her food or money. Once I stopped and asked her name and if she would like a folding chair. She graciously accepted the offer. After engaging more with her she felt comfortable sharing her story. She seems content and is not interested in seeking shelters or other housing alternatives. A chair to sit on met her need at that moment.

Although our desire to help others experience holiday joy is sincere it may be interpreted as insensitive and intrusive. Perhaps, seeing others who appear to be lonely brings emotions to the surface inside us. Perhaps, our longing to help others feel merry and bright is really satisfying our unmet need. Perhaps, despite a host of family and friends to spend the holidays with, we still feel “home alone.” Ready to take the next step.

Resna Marie Brunson, MSC

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