UK

'Christmas makes me feel alone'

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Media captionFeeling 'unwanted' on Christmas Day

Despite television bombarding us with images of the perfect family Christmas, only 62% of the British population will spend most of the day with their closest relatives, a survey suggests.

The BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme spoke to three people who do not have contact with their family about what their Christmas was like.

"I remember last Christmas there wasn't even that noise of the door being opened, and I just felt so unwanted, as though everyone has someone or somewhere around - I didn't have that. I was very upset, and I just stayed in my room and pretty much cried all day," says Farah, 21.

This year she aims to cope by treating it like a normal day. She plans to do some revision, while playing music to help with the silence.

Farah - whose name we have changed - has no contact with any of her family. She grew up with her mother, to whom she hasn't spoken for two years. She now lives in her university town.

This time of year is particularly difficult, she says. "Christmas is definitely a time where I feel that I need to be loved. And the longer you're estranged, the more desperate you become for love."

The poll of 2,000 people by YouGov for the Stand Alone charity, which helps people estranged from their families, suggests only 62% of the British population will spend most of Christmas Day with their immediate family. Some 12% will spend it with their partner's immediate family.

Only 39% said they found the day "joyful".

'Reality's starker'

Image caption David has lost contact with his youngest son

David Wilson agrees there is a massive gulf between the ideal that is represented in TV programmes or adverts and the reality of people's lives.

"Christmas then becomes even more of a contradiction," he says.

"It is portrayed as the perfect situation with the family sitting around the Christmas tree, and the reality's starker."

He is not completely alone as he's married and has contact with some of his family, but those who are missing make Christmas very painful.

He doesn't speak to his younger son, who lives in Spain, which means he doesn't see his three-year-old grandson.

"I'm quite unable to explain because nobody's ever told me. The lines went dead," he says.

He still buys his grandson a present each Christmas and birthday, which he puts in a box.

"I can say I write him letters, one day he'll know that I did care enough to get him those things. So I think it has meaning for me and it has meaning for him."

'It can be hard'

Image caption Amie now spends Christmas with her boyfriend's family.

Amie, 22, lost touch with a number of members of her family after she told her mother she no longer wanted to be in contact with her.

"So from there it kind of had a knock-on effect with some other family members.

"My younger brother didn't really want to talk to me after that. It was difficult.

"I haven't spoken to my dad in years because my parents got divorced when I was seven and he lives in Manchester and doesn't have an address."

She says it's difficult at the end of term as the main question from friends is: "When are you going home?" and she has to say she's not.

"You'll see all the pictures on Facebook of people with their families and their big piles of presents that their parents have got for them and I think it's just weird being different to everyone else around you.

"There's nothing on the TV really about 'I'm not spending Christmas with my family,' like it's just kind of expected that you'd go.

"It's really weird. It's just all very positive and nobody's really saying Christmas can be hard for people."

Amie now spends Christmas with her boyfriend's family and feels it is a more positive event than in the past.

"I kind of consider them my family now, rather than my actual family," she says.

"I'd much rather spend Christmas with my boyfriend's family and feel a bit out of place than try and fit into a normal family Christmas and just find the whole thing horrible, because it's meant to be a nice time."

Farah says, for now, Christmas is just about looking forward to a better future.

"Sometimes I just like to observe festive, happy people when they're out shopping for their families," she says.

"It is just nice to see and it just makes me think that one day when I start my own family I want to be like that."

Watch the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.