Sunday, December 13, 2015

When Christmas Hurts...

I think there must be something wrong with me,
Linus. Christmas is coming, but I'm not happy. I
don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel.

Charlie Brown

Hello, everyone,

Today has been a wonderful day of trimming the Christmas tree, decorating the house and baking the world's best ginger snaps (if I do say so myself!). These winter holidays are my favourite. I love the cold air and sparkling lights outside and the fire and coziness inside, the sounds of carols in the air and the visits of beloved family and friends.

However, for many, the holidays are not such a happy time. This week, for example, three of my friends and family are having serious surgery, one on Monday, one on Tuesday and the third on Wednesday. They and their families are stressed and worried.

When illness, trauma, loss, worry or chronic sorrow fill your heart, the light celebrations of Christmas and the other seasonal holidays can ring hollowly at best or sound a note of pure pain at worst. One of the hardest things about this kind of holiday suffering is that no one wants you to feel it - so family and friends do their best to "cheer you up". It's such a relief when the rare person comes along who will allow you feel exactly as you do without having to "fix"you. Such people are worth their weight in gold.

While checking in with a few of my favourite websites this week, I came across a young woman who, through her music, encourages others to feel their grief and sadness. Her name is Latifah Phillips of Page CXVI and she takes traditional hymns and spiritual songs and changes their words and arrangements to make them more relevant for today. Recently, she took a popular Christian children's song, "Down in My Heart", a typically "go-ey" tune as my husband used to say, and reinterpreted it as a melancholy reflection of pain and grief, written in a minor key.

The dissonance of the song's usual cheer and her own sad arrangement seems to bother her a little for she adds a new refrain:

I can't understand
And I can't pretend
That this will be alright in the end. 

But then she goes on to end the song with a verse from the old hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul", a song of acceptance and trust in the face of suffering. She seems to be saying that even in the midst of great pain we can still find joy. And even when we can't seem to find anything to hope for, we can anticipate that peace will come eventually.

So, I invite you to take a listen and allow this new song, Joy, to companion you through whatever sadness is present this winter season, whether it is the pain of secondary traumatic stress, the grief of losing a family member or friend, or the chronic sorrow of living with a loved one's unending illness or injury. (It's not particularly my style of music - I'm more a Mozart, Schubert or Abba type - but I like Latifah's idea of juxtaposing the happiness of the season with many people's true emotions.) May having your sadness acknowledged in a musical way bring you some peace.

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