How to get through Christmas if Covid means you are spending it alone

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger

Words by ITV News Multimedia producer Suzanne Elliott

After a difficult year, an easing of Covid restrictions on Christmas Day was welcomed by many.

But as Tier 4 restrictions take hold in London and the South-East, millions are forbidden to mix households at any point over Christmas, leaving many people's festive plans in tatters.

Even before Boris Johnson's announcement on Saturday, with Covid-19 infections rising across the country, and with millions living under strict Tier 3 restrictions, more and more people had chosen to U-turn on their festive plans.

The importance of social connection and relationships has been brought into sharp focus by the Covid-19 pandemic, and not being able to see loved ones this Christmas can only exacerbate feelings of disconnect and loneliness.

Scott, a key worker from Derbyshire was hoping to see parents who live in Kent.

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger

He had already made the difficult decision to cancel their family gathering this Christmas over concerns about rising cases in the South East of England and the discovery of a new strain of the virus that experts suggest could be fuelling the spike.

"I live alone and I've relentlessly stuck to the lockdown rules throughout the year," he told ITV News before the latest announcement cracking down on the spread of a new variant of the virus.

"Being a key worker I've worked throughout the pandemic and I've only been able to see my parents once this year. I was hoping to be able to be with them for Christmas, but because of the fast rate of infections in Kent I don't want to take the chance of going back to Kent and possibly bring the faster strain of Covid back to Derbyshire. We have a fairly low rate of infections.

Look after your elderly neighbours

"Since the announcement of the relaxed Christmas rules my parents have been looking forward to me coming home so much and we are all feeling very upset that we may not be able to see one and other."

Sue Sessions and her husband will be eating Christmas lunch alone for the first time in 46 years of marriage after they deemed the risk of visiting family too great.

"Our daughter is a teacher so she’s in a bubble with 30 children - and both her children are at different schools and they too are in a bubble with 30 children," she told ITV News.

"Our seven-year-old granddaughter has already been in isolation when a child tested positive for Covid.

"At 66 and 69 we feel it’s just too risky to mix, especially as we in West Yorkshire have been unable to mix with our families since March. You just feel like 'what’s the point?'”

For the many families who have lost loved ones this year, this Christmas is going to be unimaginatively difficult, particularly for those left alone following the death of a loved one.

In more normal years, the festive period can have a negative impact on people already unmoored by grief and loneliness.

Daniel, 37, from Leicester, lost his mother and grandmother to Covid earlier this year; his grief was compounded when a long-term relationship ended in the summer.

"This Christmas will be my first one with no loved ones around me due to Covid-19," he tells ITV News.

"Other family members live in different parts of the UK, but Covid-19 restrictions make it difficult to travel, plus my grandfather is unwell so I don't want to put him into any risk of contracting Covid-19."

In a year when social interaction has been so limited, not being able to reconnect over Christmas will be keenly felt by many Credit: Unsplash

Lorraine Jordan's uncle died of Covid-19 in May. Her mum, who has Alzheimer's, is in a residential care home.

"It's going to be a rather strange situation, they both used to come to my house and have Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year's day lunch with us.

"This year we will miss all this and more. Mum is 90. I miss her very much, as I miss my uncle, we were very close."

Both her and her husband have underlying health issues which means they have also decided not to see the grandchildren this year.

"We used to go to one of the houses and watch the grandkids open their gifts, that's not happening now either.

"My husband has an underlying chest problem and I have asthma so its going to be a very different Christmas indeed."

Being separated from family and loved ones over the Christmas period is one of the biggest concerns facing callers to Samaritans, the charity say.

Almost a third of callers to the helpline are from people worrying about being separated from family and loved ones, and coping with being lonely during Christmas or having to spend Christmas alone.

“It has been an unprecedented year with the pandemic affecting so many people’s health and wellbeing and this will be a very different Christmas for many people,” Niall Mulligan, Executive Director for Samaritans Ireland said.

“Some may not be able to visit family or friends, others may have family oversees who cannot travel home, and for others missing normal events, like Christmas Mass or socialising in the local pub, can be devastating."

Among the volunteers on duty this Christmas Day will be Bernie Keane.

It will be a Christmas dinner for one for more people than usual this year. Credit: PA

He said: “They may not be suicidal, but they’re so lonely. Other callers may have had a fall out with family members or other issues may surface like bereavement.”

Robin Hewings from the Campaign To End Loneliness tells ITV News that "the evidence shows lonely people have gotten lonelier" during the coronavirus pandemic and all this talk of festive bubbles and households could be intensifying feelings of isolation.

"People think about social connection a lot at Christmas," Mr Hewings says.

"That can be a really good thing, because it means that we're thinking about others who might be lonely and people are looking forward to be able to come together at Christmas. That can be a really positive time when you can reconnect with family.

"I think that's why people talk a lot about loneliness and Christmas, not necessarily because it's worse, but because it's a time where we put a real effort into." In a year when social interaction has been so limited, not being able to reconnect over Christmas will be keenly felt by many - and not just by those who have lost partners or family members.

Mr Hewings says having those social interactions within the wider community also helps lessen the impact of loneliness - but with office parties, New Years' Eve celebrations and festive catch-ups with friends now off limits, people do not even have outlets.

What can you to help someone who may be lonely

One of the great concerns about loneliness is that it breeds loneliness and it is important to show a lonely person that they matter to you - a simple phone call can be enough.

"There is a kind of downward spiral of loneliness," Mr Hewings explains.

"You might have a slight tiff with someone for example, and if you're not lonely those things are quite easy to shake off and you forget about it, but when people are lonely they think about those things much more negatively, which can then make it harder for them to re-enter social life, and can then mean that people become chronically lonely."

He also points to evidence that during the pandemic when people were allowed to form bubbles, as many as 30% of people who said they were lonely did not because they feared being rejected or did not think anyone would want to for a bubble with them.

Age UK suggests being a good neighbour by offering to pick up shopping or run errands.

Feeling lonely this Christmas? How can you help alleviate loneliness?

Video calls are an obvious way to connect with love ones, but Mr Hewings points out that a phone call can be just as effective - and in some cases more appropriate.

Reach out to people even if it takes some courage, says Mr Hewings.

Saying 'hello' to a shop keeper or neighbour can be enough.

"It doesn't have to be the biggest interactions for it to still matter."

"A lot of people get a sense of connection from broadcast media," he adds. "Particularly the slightly personal things like phone-ins.

"[Some] old people say television feels like their main connection to the outside world. In a difficult time it can be a useful way of having to manage things."

Who to contact if you or someone you know needs help:

  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at

  •  The Befriending Network has a directory of services in the UK. This can be a good option if you find leaving your home difficult.

  • Age UK Advice: 0800 169 65 65. For a cheerful chat, day or night, The Silver Line: 0800 470 80 90.

  • Community Connectors and Navigators can help you find local services, groups and activities that suit you. 

  • Papyrus offer support for children and young people under the age of 35 over the phone on 0800 068 41 41 between 9am – midnight every day of the year. If you would rather text you can do so on 07786 209697 or send an email to

  • Rethink Mental Illness offer practical advice and information for anyone affected by mental health problems on a wide range of topics including treatment, support and care. Phone 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-4pm) or visit

  • Mind also offer mental health support between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. You can call them on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463. There is also lots of information available on their website.

  • Campaign Against Living Miserably's (CALM) helpline and webchat are open from 5pm until midnight, 365 days a year. Call CALM on 0800 58 58 58 or chat to their trained helpline staff onlineNo matter who you are or what you're going through, it's free, anonymous and confidential.