Christmas music. It’s everywhere, whether or not you want to hear it. It’s in those smaltzy holiday telephone advertisements on TV. It’s in every kind of retail environment. It’s on every radio station; if the station is not playing the music, the music is embedded in the advertising the station buys at this time of year. Music is one of the many triggers embedded within the holiday season that bring new waves of grief with them. All the memories and traditions that make the holiday season so important in each of our family histories are also triggers that may bring on a wave of grief. So many unavoidable triggers.
How can a grieving parent navigate this situation? One trick would be to not go shopping. Either order online or send a friend out with your list. Buy gift cards at the grocery check out. Tell the people to whom you would usually give a gift that you can’t do gift shopping this year. Align their expectations with your present reality.
If you can’t go shopping, is there something you’d like to make as gifts? Frame a photo of that person with your child. Bake pumpkin bread or your child’s favorite cookies . Maybe you have some sort of specialty you could make for everyone. Or write a letter that tells that other person how they were important to you or your child. That’s one way to avoid some of the musical triggers.
Another strategy is to face the music. Enter into it. Look carefully at some of the old Christmas hymns and carols. Many of them include one line or verse that talks about suffering or about heaven. That’s because people in the “olden” days faced death and trouble more frequently and more honestly than we do these days. They were better acquainted with grief. It has been a fact forever that we all die sometime. But in years past, before antibiotics and other modern medicine, death came and the people didn’t have the illusion that everyone would get better and live a long life.
So they included hope in the face of death, routinely, in the music of the church.
Let’s look at a few carols: Good Christian Men Rejoice – He hath ope'd the heav'nly door And man is blessed forevermore Christ was born for this
Hark! The hearld angels sing – Peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled Veiled in flesh the Godhead see Hail the incarnate Deity Pleased as man with man to dwell Jesus, our Emmanuel Born that man no more may die Born to raise the sons of earth Born to give them second birth
O Come Emmanuel - …free Thine own from Satan's tyranny From depths of Hell Thy people save And give them victory o'er the grave Disperse the gloomy clouds of night And death's dark shadows put to flight.
In the next blog, I will talk about my top number one favorite Christmas hymn for those who grieve. Till then, focus on the eternal hope which the Father sent into our messy world as a baby on that Christmas. May the Hope sustain you through each and every wave of grief you face this season.