Dear Bel

This time of the year is very hard for me, at 68. Seasonal Affective Disorder is what I have. Other reasons Christmas can be difficult are numerous. My husband died 21 years ago in an industrial accident. I don’t have any children. The anniversary of my husband’s death is the beginning of my misery. He was born in November and Christmas follows.

I always dread winter. After his death, I was in a relationship three years later with K. Things seemed to have improved, but he eventually left me for someone else. My loneliness seems to be increasing with Christmas. Sometimes I wish I could hibernate in September through March.

With my brother in law, I’ll spend Christmas. I know I won’t be receiving any gifts from family, as they are elderly and do not want to go shopping. So I don’t have that to look forward to. I am also depressed by my inability to find true love. I tried online dating but that didn’t work.

I’ve never met any other person at work. Working in a shop, every day I witness men purchasing gifts for their women and their girlfriends. It is so sad that there are no special gifts for me.

I know I can’t ‘cancel’ Christmas. It’s a question of coping, but how do I deal with the feelings of isolation?


This week Bel advises a 68-year-old reader who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disease.

Bel gives advice this week to a patient suffering from Seasonal Affective Syndrome (SAD) at the age of 68.

I feel sad to imagine you working in the store and watching men buying gifts for their beloveds, knowing there’s no special person to take pleasure in choosing something nice for you. It may sound silly, but it is something I would encourage you to do.

It’s very easy to say, when depressed, ‘Oh, let’s not bother.’ Yet the action of thinking about that other person and what might give pleasure (even if it’s as easy as a bottle of favourite tipple) is a small step towards forgetting your own sadness, even if only for a moment.

Let’s start with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Many people experience the serious lowering of the spirits that comes with the lowering of light in winter – but there’s no reason not to act on it.

If I ever need one, I keep it in a corner. I love the warm glow and feel so relaxed. You can buy one for £26 online; perhaps this could be your Christmas present to yourself.

One small act could be symbolic of a much larger symbol. If you are a fan of luxury, then I suggest that you indulge in it. If in doubt, treat yourself to a special treat.

These aren’t trivial pieces of advice. There are small ways we can help ourselves. A little self-sabotage is okay.

To be more serious, yes, I could suggest that in 2022 you try counselling (see and/or look at And I know for a fact that such intervention really can change lives, if you find the right therapist. It’s important that the process of deciding and investigating can itself be a significant step towards taking charge of your own life. It’s a simple concept, but it is worth considering.

It is clear that I cannot offer a magical cure for loneliness, isolation, or frustrated romantic longings. However, understanding the fact that these emotions are often exacerbated by Christmas will not be a comfort. This season of goodwill and peace can be very harsh indeed.

You mention your husband’s sudden, shocking death 21 years ago. Those memories will be etched in your heart forever. A man I know lost his father when he was 21 years old, and he couldn’t see Christmas again without being sad. This is something you know very well.

Next, there was the disappointment of being jilted and beaten by K. It left a deep scar and I am sorry that nobody has been able to heal your wounds.

Is there anything you can do? For now, very little – except make up your mind to have as good a Christmas as possible, and cherish thoughts of a happier past – helped by your brother-in-law’s memories too.

Make a resolution to change your life in the next 12 months. All the old advice column clichés about making sure you cultivate your friendships, perhaps try volunteering, attempting new interests – all those are only clichés because they contain oft-repeated common sense.

There is so much we can all learn from one another. I hope that you’ll continue to follow this column and, through these pages and others, open your hearts and minds towards other people. It really can be one way to deal with ‘feelings of isolation’.

In the words of the American novelist F.Scott Fitzgerald, ‘You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.’

It feels selfish, but I’m happy to be on my own

Dear Bel

It makes me feel guilty. Am I being selfish? My daughter requested that I go to her place for Christmas. However, I’m happy to be on my own. She says she’s family, and doesn’t like to think of me on my own. A few of my friends, who are 75 or older than me, feel exactly the same.

Of course, this dilemma does make me think of families that don’t bother with their mothers and fathers. I know I’m fortunate. I live in East Sussex, my daughter is in Surrey and I don’t want them travelling to collect me.

We don’t know what will be happening in the next few weeks. I love all my family very much — but I know they can’t understand me. What are my options for making it easy on my daughter?


You wrote this short email on November 29 and so I hope by now you’ve talked to your daughter and made up your mind — whether to go to her home or to remain on your own.

Even though Christmas is only one week away, I felt I would still be able to offer advice since you have asked.

Get in touch with Bel 

Each week Bel responds to readers’ queries about emotional and relational problems.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email

If you choose, a pseudonym may be used.

Bel is open to reading all correspondence, but she regrets that she can’t enter personal correspondence.

It’s interesting you mention friends ‘happy on their own’. I’m glad, although it might depend on whether they had an invitation, or whether being happy alone is wisely making the best of the existing situation. There’s no identikit model for people’s emotions at Christmas, nor any other time. People who enjoy their company are admirable. While I like my company too, I prefer family.

I most certainly wouldn’t call you ‘selfish’. You’re perfectly entitled to do as you wish. However, we can agree that one important rule is to not offend and upset people who love you. For being loved and wanted is a huge privilege — and you’re quite right to acknowledge your great good fortune.

If you’d been sitting in my chair for the last 14 years as the Mail’s advice columnist you would often have felt overwhelmed by sadness at the loneliness of others and wondered what went wrong, that they should be so neglected by families.

Imaginative you may be, but you have no idea of the sadness of some people’s lives.

In your position (and we’re of an age) I’d be asking myself whether it might be a good idea to match my daughter’s generous grace with my own. I’d feel grateful for their willingness to journey to collect me and hope to add to the general good cheer of their hearth.

It is as blessed to receive as to give — and since Christmas is all about giving, I can’t help hoping you’ve decided to give your daughter the gift of your company.

I’m still furious over my partner’s betrayal

Dear Bel

We were together 27 years. Covid was his cause of death.

He cheated after six years of being with me, and we split for nearly two years. However, he still called almost daily to visit me.

He called me on Sunday night to tell me it was over. It was very upsetting, so I assumed she had stopped it.

I didn’t contact him but several months later he asked if I would go back to live with him.

The Thoughts of the Week 

Chimneys: colder.

Flightpaths: busier.

Driver: Christmas (F)

Postcodes are still a mystery.

Reindeer Report from U.A.Fanthorpe, English poet 1929-1909

He lived in an amazing country home, and I really missed the dogs. I felt annoyed so I agreed. We were happy and things were wonderful. But since his death I find myself thinking about their affair and it’s made me very angry and upset. It’s clear that he loved me as much as I did him. Why is he so angry at me?


It could be possible that your anger is more like grieving. At 4am life’s regrets, disappointments and sorrow circle the bed as daylight seems so far away.

You were very hurt by your partner 20 years back. Then he wanted you back — and you chose to return to the lovely life you had enjoyed with him and two dogs. She was a wise woman. You returned for love — but comfort, too.

He wanted me for the exact same reasons. There’s a whole life story there — and surely it was a good one, because I don’t believe in perfection but in accommodation of the foibles and sins and weaknesses of those we love.

Recognizing that someone can be loved even though they are flawed, because we have to love them back. . . then, we can all grow as people. You don’t have to be angry at the man that you love, but you can accept your grief.

Last but not least… Have a Merry Christmas!

Hooray — the tree is up and laden with garish decorations as usual, the cards have all been posted, most of our presents bought and wrapped — and next week the calendar has given me an extra holiday.

Christmas Day falls on Saturday for the 14th time, making it no column for the second year in a row. Perhaps it’s just as well because we have a mountain of food to buy and some advance cooking to do, because my best friend and her husband arrive on the 23rd for four days and must be fed. We missed them last year, so it’s another cause for celebration.

They love Christmas Eve and to be with us as we light the candles, read the Christmas story by St Luke aloud (taking turns), and then enjoy Christmas morning.

Yes, we’ll have a merry gin and tonic in hand (beer for my husband) but we love the few moments of gentle, joyful solemnity as we share the wonderful words so familiar from childhood — about the inn, the manger, the swaddling clothes, the angels, shepherds and wise men.

It is beautiful to me and it reminds me every year of my heritage.

So, I pray that you will allow yourself to feel the sacred in this moment.

I’m refusing to waste any space with moans or fears about any virus or variant, even though I know it’s affected your spirits as much as it’s weighed down my own.

What can we do but trust our instincts, make sensible judgements, and vow to eat, drink and be as merry as possible — yes, even if Christmas is marred by wistfulness, as it is for the writer of today’s first letter?

My father will be absent this year and so, not to be 13 at the festive table, I will put a token for him there, knowing he’s with us in spirit.

It is all the more reason I want to extend a hand and to wish you warmth, light, and happiness, my friends.