The only time I have ever been away from home during the Holiday season was as a missionary in South Carolina. I “missed” two Holiday seasons while I was serving there. Some of the following advice on how to make the Holidays feel homey without family near comes from this experience but most comes from talking to my sister-in-law. She is married to a man in the Air Force and lives all over the place! They are currently in Hawaii but they’ve also lived in Texas and Illinois since I’ve been married into the family. They made it home for one Christmas in the almost 6 years I’ve been around. I asked what she does and if it’s hard for her and from her answers and my experience, I feel like we’ve got some decent advice on how to help.
Especially friends that are in the same situation as you. She makes friends with other military families and they all get together to celebrate. I had a “companion” or a girl that I lived and taught the gospel with. We both missed our families. We both understood how the other felt. And we could support each other through it. Find people around you that understand that it’s hard to be away from loved ones but that want to make the best of the situation.
Attend Religious (or Community) Activities
Both of us went to church sponsored functions – dinners, trunk-or-treat, service activities. If you aren’t religious, perhaps the community has similar events. Filling your time with fun, festive activities helps you and especially your children, not feel so “left out” of the fun. While it’s not holiday related, I found that as a college student, when I saw that my family had all gotten together for a BBQ and I had missed it, I would feel terrible…until I found some friends to go boating with. Then I didn’t feel left out. I was able to be happy for them that they were having a good time because I was too. You will miss your family less if you don’t feel like you are missing out on everything.
Skype, Google Hangouts, phone calls, Facebook… There are tons of ways to connect across long distances! Use them! One of the best ways to make the Holidays feel homey without family near is to bring them as close as you can. Maybe you can’t give them hugs or smell the candies your mom makes, but you can still see them and hear their voice. We got to call home every Christmas as a missionary (we had rules about contact with home – pretty much, communicate through letters and email only) and it was great! Everyone would pass the phone and put it on speaker and talk over top of each other. It sometimes made me feel homesick but in a good way.
Whether you invite someone to your Thanksgiving dinner or serve in a soup kitchen, helping others always lifts spirits. This was the number one thing that helped me as a missionary. I spent every day serving anyone and everyone I came in contact with. I was so busy helping others, I rarely had time to think about things I was missing out on!
Try Not to Dwell on It
I know it’s sometimes hard but the more you think about how left out you are or how much you miss everyone, the worse you’re going to feel. Try thinking of other things or going to do some fun activity with your family or friends to help you focus on something else.
Finally, the more you can think about things you are thankful for, the happier you will be. Just like above I said that dwelling on everything you are missing will make you sad, focusing on everything you AREN’T missing will help you feel happier. If you are having a particularly rough day, make a list of things you are grateful for and post it somewhere you will see it a lot. Doing this will remind you to choose happiness.
Make the Holidays Feel Homey without Family Near
It sucks being away from those you love, especially during the Holidays but that doesn’t mean you have to let it consume you. Choose to enjoy the Holidays, despite the things that aren’t perfect.
What other suggestions would you add? What things help you make the Holidays feel homey without family near?