Barts-MS rose-tinted-odometer: ★

My name is Laura Smith, I am 54 years old and have progressive MS. I am divorced with a grown-up son who is 32 years old and lives with his partner in the North of England. I am medically retired and live alone in a small bungalow in a rural village close to the Essex-Suffolk border. I am disabled and need a stick to walk indoors. I use a wheelchair and/or scooter for outdoor mobility. I rarely go out because of bladder problems. Despite this, I had planned to travel to London to spend the Christmas break with my sister and her family. These plans have now been cancelled. I will therefore be spending Christmas alone. I don’t enjoy Christmas as it reminds me of a time before I had MS, before my divorce, of a time when I had a successful career as a lawyer, a lovely home and a fulfilling family life.  I am dreading waking-up this Friday alone. Help!

Is this short story familiar? 

Yesterday morning on the Andrew Marr show Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, made it clear that Christmas was not cancelled, only the celebration of Christmas was being downsized or put on hold. He urged people to reflect on Christmas and what it means if you are a Christian and to delay the need for celebration to a time when it more appropriate and the mood of the nation less sombre. 

The Archbishop then discussed the epidemic of loneliness that COVID-19 has caused and gave some general advice to people spending Christmas alone. The following are things you can do if you are home alone this Christmas. 

If you are religious reconnect with the true meaning of Christmas and try and get to a Church service; either in person or one of the TV, radio or online Christmas services. Pick-up the phone and call people; friends, family or one of the many charitable organizations who provide telephone companions. Watch Christmas TV. Listen to Christmas carols. If you can practice mindfulness please do. Get out if you can for exercise and fresh air. Make sure you fill your day with as many activities as you can. 

If you can I would recommend reading or listen to a reading of the Charlie Mackesy book ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’. My wife bought all of us a copy of the book at the beginning of the pandemic and whenever I feel low I pick it up from the pile of books next to my bed and read it (it only takes 5 minutes to read). I know it can easily be dismissed and labelled bedside philosophy, but there is something very therapeutic and uplifting about its tempo and messages. 

My favourite quote in the book is “What’s the best thing you have learnt about storms?” “That they end”, said the horse. Yes, this storm will end. 

If you know someone who is alone this Christmas can you please take some time-out on Christmas day to give them a call and if you have any other suggestions to help the many people who are alone this Christmas please let us know. 

I hope you are all holding up and I want to use this opportunity for us at Barts-MS to wish you a different, but merry, Christmas or happy holidays. 

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CoI: multiple

Twitter: @gavinGiovannoni                                  Medium: @gavin_24211

About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.


Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel reply

  • My family are all in New Zealand, so I spend most Christmasses away from them. Prices shoot up around Christmas so if I visit at all I do it at other times. I go about once every three years. Luckily, my last visit was in February this year so I have seen my family this year. Now that my niece and nephew are both at school I’ll have to suck it up and start going at Christmas, but who knows when the borders will open properly again? I can’t afford two weeks and $3100 to quarantine on top of the flight costs.

    My worst Christmas was seven years ago. My dad was in hospital failing to recover from having his cancerous bladder removed (mum wouldn’t let me visit, she said I should wait until he was better, which she didn’t seem to realise wasn’t going to happen). My brother had food poisoning from the company Christmas BBQ and couldn’t visit Dad. I had right optic neuritis and couldn’t tell Mum I might have MS because of everything going on with Dad. Then my flight to Barcelona to spend Christmas with a friend was cancelled when Gatwick flooded on Christmas Eve. I had no food in as I was going on holiday. I grabbed whatever I could from M&S (mostly booze) and had a miserable Christmas on my own.

    I can’t imagine a Christmas ever being as bad as that one! So I can deal with this year.

By Prof G



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