Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sad memories, sad songs mark the holidays for some

Stevie Wonder and Adra Day perform Wonder’s classic Someday at Christmas whose lyrics express a hope for a brighter future.

Youtube.com

Stevie Wonder and Adra Day perform Wonder’s classic Someday at Christmas whose lyrics express a hope for a brighter future.

Times Staff Writer

Standing in the baking aisle at Publix, a woman tries to decide which combination of sprinkles and frosting will impress at the Christmas cookie swap while the third version of Jingle Bells in the last hour pumps through the store speakers. She taps her foot and hums along.

The next aisle over, a young man going through divorce listlessly fills his cart, trying mightily to block out the cheerful tune.

It's the same song, but it has a profoundly different effect.

Every November, a virtually unavoidable deluge of happy, upbeat music marks the advent of the holiday season and continues until the arrival of the new year.

For those who have lots of happiness, love, and family and friends in their lives, they welcome carols to their car rides, shopping trips and social gatherings. The merry melodies can enhance their joy and gratitude.

But some folks struggling with loss or depression may find that the constant holiday spirit only exacerbates their pain.

"People who already have diagnosed emotional health conditions are indeed predisposed to worsening mood, anxiety and feelings of social isolation," said Dr. Rahul Mehra, a board-certified psychologist based in Indian Rocks Beach.

MaryFrances Papadakis, a licensed mental health counselor who practices in Largo and St. Petersburg, agrees.

"Holidays can be especially difficult for those experiencing grief and loss of a loved one, or the loss or lack of a relationship or support system," she said.

It's widely believed that depression and suicide rates skyrocket during the holiday season, but research doesn't support the assertion.

In fact, suicide rates are at their lowest in November and December, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

One reason that myth endures is a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, which relates to a reduction in sunlight exposure and is most commonly seen in the northeastern U.S.

Numerous research affirms the powerful effects music can have on moods and emotions, whether negative or positive.

"If a person suffered a traumatic event in his life and during the event there was a particular song represented around it, the 'musical memory' can reactivate the feelings and emotions surrounding the trauma," Mehra said. "But music has also been shown to decrease the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies. It can help relax our tensions, calm our anxieties and distract our minds from our worries."

Music leaning more toward the melancholy can sometimes soothe those who are struggling with loss or depression during "the most wonderful time of the year."

The subject matter of the song — a breakup or a death, for example — can remind holiday sufferers that they're not alone.

Palm Harbor singer Victor Washington will perform Every Year, Every Christmas by Luther Vandross in an upcoming holiday concert.

"It's a well-written story," he said of the 1995 hit. "Songs are always our short stories. This one has themes of happiness, disappointment, and hope — a perfect mix of emotions."

Even the often-haunting timbre, minor chords, and low octaves of the composition itself can be comforting.

Lyrics, of course, are important contributors to the feelings the song is trying to evoke.

For example, the timeliness of Stevie Wonder's classic Someday at Christmas can't be ignored in light of how divisive the country has become,

Someday all our dreams will come to be

Those who are serving overseas can find solace in a variety of songs written just for them.

In Marvin Gaye's Vietnam war tribute I Want To Come Home For Christmas, he worries about his family being without him for the holiday.

I'm a prisoner of war lying here in my cell

Hoping my family is well

Wish they wouldn't worry so much about me

Just try to get us home in time for the Christmas tree

For a new generation of listeners, plenty of popular artists have covered these traditionally somber ballads, putting a new spin on them.

Sam Smith's unmistakable a capella introduces his wistful version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, while easy listening-darling Michael Buble honors his predecessors with a big-band version of I'll Be Home For Christmas.

"It gives people something to relate to," Papadakis said. "People can use music to dwell on emotions or memories."

Local fans of holiday pieces have no shortage of ensemble performances to choose from, including the annual "Tidings of Good Cheer" concert presented by the Florida Wind Band. This year's show will take place on Sunday (Dec. 18) at the University of South Florida's School of Music.

"I believe most people are looking for a happy, warm, peaceful place away from the normal pressures of life -- a way to recall the lovely feelings from the past without any of the pain," said John C. Carmichael, Florida Wind Band conductor and USF director of bands. "Music can help with that."

Contact Libby Baldwin at [email protected],com. Follow her at @LibBaldwin

>>CHECK IT OUT

Sad Holiday Songs

For readers seeking comfort and solidarity in a rough holiday season, we curated a Spotify playlist of more than 50 songs just for you, featuring artists from a vast range of eras and genres. Go to

http://tbtim.es/18ro

Sad memories, sad songs mark the holidays for some 12/16/16 [Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2016 5:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Southeast Seminole Heights holds candlelight vigil for victims' families and each other

    News

    TAMPA — They came together in solidarity in Southeast Seminole Heights, to sustain three families in their grief and to confront fear, at a candlelight vigil held Sunday night in the central Tampa neighborhood.

    A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during the candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
  2. It's not just Puerto Rico: FEMA bogs down in Florida, Texas too

    HOUSTON — Outside Rachel Roberts' house, a skeleton sits on a chair next to the driveway, a skeleton child on its lap, an empty cup in its hand and a sign at its feet that reads "Waiting on FEMA."

    Ernestino Leon sits among the debris removed from his family’s flood-damaged Bonita Springs home on Oct. 11. He has waited five weeks for FEMA to provide $10,000 to repair the home.
  3. McConnell says he's awaiting Trump guidance on health care

    STERLING, Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's willing to bring bipartisan health care legislation to the floor if President Donald Trump makes clear he supports it.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s “not certain yet” on what Trump wants.
  4. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.
  5. Jones: Where are the difference-makers on the Bucs defense?

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — They can't tackle. They can't cover. They can't pressure the quarterback, let alone sack him.

    Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) scrambles past Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (98) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]