Most care leavers understand the pain and depression that comes around the holidays, especially Christmas, because Christmas is meant to be spent with family and having fun, but what do you do if you don’t have a family home to return to during the holiday times?
I had experienced loneliness around Christmas time as a care leaver before I came to university after I left my foster parent’s home, but the Christmas break at university was different...
Leading up to the holiday break, I kept myself busy getting assignments ready to be handed in but the closer the day creeps up on to you, the deeper the dreaded feeling got.
Depending on where you live at the time while in university, rather you live in university halls or a private shared house with other university students, your experience might be different. For me, I’m currently living in university halls. For the time being, like most care leavers, this is my permanent residence until the summer holidays, when I will find myself looking for my next permanent resident.
During the holiday break, one by one my housemates started to leave to go home for the Christmas, and the quieter the flat became, the bigger the loneliness feeling grew. You may get lucky. Not all university students go home for Christmas, some live too far away, or you may find yourself living with another care leaver.
One of the most important things I tell you is to keep yourself distracted!
If you have hobbies, use them for distraction or even take up a new hobby. During this time period, I started up knitting, so I went onto amazon and ordered multiple different types of yarn, I used knitting as a distraction method, and I found it to be very relaxing. Also, remember to go outside and take some walks, keeping yourself locked up inside for the whole of the holiday won’t help with the sessional depression.
Planning your days out will also help, keeping a routine during this time will help keep your mind on a target to get through these days. Keeping a journal or a diary can help you by writing down your feelings allowing yourself to feel those bottled-up emotions and allowing yourself to cry and to feel angry because, at the end of the day, keeping it all bottled up never helped anyone.
Also, remember that just because your friends are not currently at the university doesn’t mean they’re not your friends anymore. You can still keep in contact over the phone or via messenger.
If you struggle with the reminder of people playing happy families during the holidays, as I did, it’s okay to feel that way. Of course, you’re going to be feeling upset over something you can’t have. It’s important to speak to people you’re close with about this and help them understand, it can help them adjust conversations away from those difficult reminders.
Some universities have a care leavers team that you can speak to, and sometimes they run a small get-together for people in a similar situation as you, people staying over the Christmas break.
Remember, there are people out there you can speak to. You can text "SHOUT" to 85258 for free from all major UK mobile networks, and you can call Samaritans for free on 116 123.
I know this is coming after Christmas, but I wanted to experience a university Christmas before I wrote about one.