Leah Selfe and her husband separated when their son, Charlie, was one. Selfe, 35, comes from a small family who don’t spend holidays together.
Her ex, on the other hand, has a sprawling family who love coming together to celebrate Christmas with all the trimmings. So the decision to let Charlie spend Christmas with his dad and his “multitude of siblings and cousins and nephews and aunts and uncles” has always been a no-brainer for Selfe.
Selfe gains enormous comfort from knowing that as Charlie grows up, he’s forming “a really beautiful bond” with his extended family. However, sending her son to his dad’s celebration has meant that, for more than a decade, Selfe has spent Christmas alone.
When the weather’s dreary, she’ll curl up in bed and watch TV. If the sun’s shining, she’ll head to the beach and perch herself under an umbrella with her beloved sausage dog, Frankie, and a good book. Either way, the business manager at The Productivity Queen, an online platform designed to help women-led businesses, says the day is always “low-key”.
While Selfe is mainly happy keeping to herself on Christmas, she’s finding it more challenging as Charlie grows older. “Seeing so many of my friends and family celebrating Christmas online around that time can also be really hard,” she adds.
Selfe is far from the only person who’ll be spending Christmas alone, says psychologist Carly Dober, director of the Australian Association of Psychologists.
“If you’re someone who likes nature, take yourself out to the beach or the bush and spend the day doing something lovely for yourself.”
She says there’s a range of reasons why people may not be surrounded by loved ones on December 25. These range from those who are recently separated or widowed, to people who live far from loved ones, are unwell or are estranged from their family.
And spending Christmas alone can generate plenty of emotions. Not only can it draw attention to how lonely you feel, Dober says it shines a spotlight on the “complicated or non-existent relationships” in your life, too.