We all lose touch with people throughout life for many different reasons – moving to a new area, changing jobs, becoming unwell, falling out or simply being too busy. Often this is something we regret. In our research we’ve heard many stories of lost relationships and the negative impact this has on people.

Christmas is the perfect time to connect with those you know, as well as reconnecting with those you have lost touch with. When time passes, people often find it harder to make the first move in reconnecting, but this doesn’t mean they don’t want to.

In our Community Health Networks study we mapped people’s current social networks – how they used to look and how they’d like them to look – and how they impacted on their health and wellbeing. Many participants talked about relationships lost through their mental health, either because they withdrew or because others closed them off. And many talked about how much reconnecting would mean to them.

Through our viewpoint study, we found that nearly half of people with a mental health diagnosis had been treated differently by friends and family members in the last year. The most common way was that people became distant or no longer spent time with them. Often it was when they most needed a friend that none were available.

Case Study: “For me, Christmas offered the perfect time to get in touch again”…

Daryl resized“We lose relationships with people throughout life, but when I moved from Belfast to London in 2011 to work on the Community Health Networks study  it became particularly difficult to keep some friendships alive. Because this study was about social networks, I was particularly aware of how much mine had changed from moving cities. I kept in touch with many of my closest friends through text and Skype, but others started to fade as time went by without contact.

The loss of contact with one friend with whom I was very close while living at home was particularly on my mind – with the loss of this relationship I felt I was also losing parts of my identity and the shared memories and histories we’d had together. There was no particular reason for the lack of contact, just both of us being bad at keeping in touch. I felt that the longer I went without speaking to them, the harder it would become to reconnect. For me, Christmas offered the perfect time to get in touch again, as I knew I was going home to see family.

Last Christmas I sent a Christmas E-card, with a message suggesting we meet up while I was home – thankfully they replied in agreement. I’m glad I made the move to reconnect because meeting up reminded me why I valued the friendship. We have since been much better at staying in touch and now I have an extra reason to look forward to visiting home!”

Daryl Sweet, senior researcher,  McPin Foundation

Practical tips

Who are the people you have lost touch with? Use Christmas as an opportunity to get back in touch

Make the first move – send a text or Facebook message, or make a phone call – and let someone know you’re thinking of them

Send a Christmas card or E-card to people you want to reconnect with, and include a personal message

If possible, arrange to meet up with people over Christmas – maybe to go to a Christmas market together, for example. Make Christmas about family and friendships!