Sunday, September 23, 2018
News Roundup

Sad memories, sad songs mark the holidays for some

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

Comments
Christine Blasey Ford reaches deal to  testify at Kavanaugh hearing

Christine Blasey Ford reaches deal to testify at Kavanaugh hearing

The woman who has accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers has committed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, her lawyers said Sunday. The lawyers said some details — including whe...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Stolen smokes: Florida man gets 20 years for cigarette theft

Stolen smokes: Florida man gets 20 years for cigarette theft

PENSACOLA, Fla. — A Florida man who stole $600 worth of cigarettes from a convenience store has been sentenced to 20 years in state prison.A jury in Pensacola convicted 48-year-old Robert Spellman of burglary and grand theft in August. Authori...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Steelers-Buccaneers: Where is Ronald Jones?

Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Steelers-Buccaneers: Where is Ronald Jones?

One of the dominant storylines heading into Monday Night Football between the first-place Buccaneers and the last-place Steelers will be the things we didn’t expect to see. It’s the team that usually melts down against the team that actua...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Jays, with Snell seeking No. 21

For starters: Rays at Jays, with Snell seeking No. 21

UPDATE, 12:14: Snell takes the mound today leading the AL in wins, ERA (1.97) and opponents average (.179). … Cash noted that Snell "is in elite company now with the Rays, and he has the chance to stand alone." …  The Rays note that ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Matt Baker’s AP Top 25 ballot: Florida’s new top team

Matt Baker’s AP Top 25 ballot: Florida’s new top team

After four full weekends of college football, here's what I know:There is one great team (Alabama). There are three very good teams (Georgia, Ohio State and Clemson).After that? There are a lot of flawed teams with messy results that seem bunched tog...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Deputies: Driver kills Brandon cyclist, 73, in hit-and-run

Deputies: Driver kills Brandon cyclist, 73, in hit-and-run

BRANDON — A cyclist died in what authorities said is a hit-and-run crash, according to the Hillsborough County Sherrif’s Office.John Dilgard, 73, was riding a mountain bike southbound on Kings Avenue S about 12:42 a.m., the agency reported.A vehicle ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Police: Car runs red light, killing woman on motor scooter in St. Petersburg

Police: Car runs red light, killing woman on motor scooter in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — A woman died after a driver ran a red light on 5th Avenue N and hit her motor scooter early Sunday morning, police reported.Vallis Ann Oswain, 58, was driving the scooter northbound on 8th Street N about 2:22 a.m. She also carried a ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Weather: Expect a sunny Sunday, with clear evening ahead

Weather: Expect a sunny Sunday, with clear evening ahead

It may be the first weekend of fall, but it’ll still feel like the dog days of summer in Tampa Bay. The forecast predicts a sunny Sunday, with a high near 95 degrees and a low of 74. There is a 60 percent chance of rain.Tonight, expect a mostly clear...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Vehicle crashes into Tampa Havoline Xpress Lube, sets building ablaze, fire officials report

Vehicle crashes into Tampa Havoline Xpress Lube, sets building ablaze, fire officials report

TAMPA — A vehicle crashed into a Havoline Xpress Lube early Saturday morning, sparking flames that engulfed the structure, fire officials reported.According to Tampa Fire Rescue, multiple people called 911 about 2:40 a.m, reporting the fire on the 50...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sunday Morning QB: Midseason point approaches

Sunday Morning QB: Midseason point approaches

Highlights from Week 5:Player of the WeekKhaishef Edwards, Largo: Since coming over from Northeast, Edwards has showed off his big-play potential with touchdown catches in three of the first four games, including three in a win over Palm Harbor Unive...
Updated: 5 hours ago