The Sad Holiday

Songs and stories for hurting hearts

Posted Dec 24, 2017

Someone recently told me that Christmas makes him sad, especially when he puts ornaments on his tree. Another person shared that she tears up over her dog, who died two years ago. Several people spend a quiet day with their spouse as their children are with the family into which they married. It feels a little lonely. A friend re-grouped after divorce disrupted treasured holiday traditions, but she still feels adrift. Two friend’s dads are ill. One person lost his entire family after a brutal violation that could not be reconciled nor tolerated.  

Lonely or sad feelings during the holidays are common. What can one do? Mustering and re-thinking might help. Maybe there are places to explore, emotional risks that are worth taking, or people in need whom you can help. Volunteering in a soup kitchen or delivering baskets is one way. Reaching out to those in your midst is another. Sometimes those who appear to have it all struggle with despair in private. Maybe there is a malaise, maybe something happened. Your gesture could make a difference.  A colleague baked, decorated, and delivered a thousand cookies to office doors in a Santa hat. Later, a friend told me that this made his day.   

What else offers solace? Art that conveys sadness can be paradoxically uplifting. When we immerse in and identify with a story or sing along with a song, inner feelings emerge, which can be healing. We might feel understood, or as if we understand ourselves better. Culture can be a form of treatment (Freud). The sculptor Louise Bourgoise said, “Art is a guarantee of sanity.” Even if it is just for a few moments, a bit of transcendence can keep you going, shift your perspective, inspire change.

Here are three holiday songs. If you are so inclined, please post a song that moves you and tell us why you love it. 


"Hard Candy Christmas" (Dolly Parton)

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (Judy Garland)

"Hallelujah" (Leonard Cohen)

Louise Bourgeois
Source: Louise Bourgeois

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Happy holidays to all. XO.