By Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, December 17, 2015

Christmas carols seem to run on a loop from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve. Some are high and holy hymns, hearkening songs of angels and preparing us for worship. Others songs are fun and jazzy about decking the halls. Songs help us spruce up for the season. Do you have a song that brings out all “the feels” as you remember past holidays? Hearing songs can really take you back and move you through a range of emotions of both joy and grief.

Experiencing grief during the holidays may make these songs seem not as merry or bright. Singer Chase Holfelder, has experimented with how we hear songs. He takes a familiar song typically performed in a major key and instead performs it in a minor key. Songs that are typically described as happy suddenly seem “sad. He explores how a change in mode changes the mood of the song. His version of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is eerily haunting, and his version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sounds like a hurting heart.

Grief has a way of modulating our merriment. Maybe you feel that all of the things that are supposed to be merry and bright are tinged all of the things that are supposed to be merry and bright are tinged by melancholy. Maybe you know someone for whom this is a hard year. The carols this year may sound like they are sung in a minor key. Even as we sing “Joy to the World” it is important for us to care about those who are hurting during this season. At Highland Hills, we are beginning a group to support people experiencing grief. Even in these first meetings together, the times of sharing have offered people space to talk about their grief.

The Center for Loss and Transition offers a healing chord for those who grieve right now. Dr. Woflet writes these helpful suggestions:

Talk About Your Grief
During the holiday season, don’t be afraid to express your feelings of grief. Ignoring your grief won’t make the pain go away and talking about it openly often makes you feel better. Find caring friends and relatives who will listen—without judging you. They will help make you feel understood.

Be With Supportive, Comforting People
Identify those friends and relatives who understand that the holiday season can increase your sense of loss and who will allow you to talk openly about your feelings. Find those persons who encourage you to be yourself and accept your feelings—both happy and sad.

Do What Is Right for You During the Holidays
Well-meaning friends and family often try to prescribe what is good for you during the holidays. Instead of going along with their plans, focus on what you want to do. Discuss your wishes with a caring, trusted friend. Talking about these wishes will help you clarify what it is you want to do during the holidays. As you become aware of your needs, share them with your friends and family.

Embrace Your Treasure of Memories
Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. And holidays always make you think about times past. Instead of ignoring these memories, share them with your family and friends. Keep in mind that memories are tinged with both happiness and sadness. If your memories bring laughter, smile. If your memories bring sadness, then it’s alright to cry. Memories that were made in love—no one can ever take them away from you.