By Susan Roy, DMin, BCC
Pastoral Care Director
As hospital chaplains working with patients, families and our fellow staff members, we know that the stream of cheerful holiday messages and images might only make it harder for individuals experiencing grief or loss. Each year, we offer a series of services for people who seek a more reflective way of coping with the holidays.
I am just finishing the program for our Blue Holiday services later today (12:45 p.m.; 5 p.m.; and 6:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.) and hope that it will be meaningful for anyone who is feeling a bit blue this holiday season. Around the country, similar services might also be called a Longest Night service because it occurs on the winter solstice — Dec. 22, the day of the year that has the fewest hours of sunlight. Regardless of the name used, these programs acknowledge the darkness that may also be part of our holiday season.
Arranged in four parts, the service is reflective – not depressing – and moves from darkness to light while keeping a balance between the two. The four parts are loneliness, death, growth and hope. Each of the four parts includes lighting a candle, a reading, and a musical selection. During each of the four parts of the service, participants will be invited to come forward to place flowers in a wreath to represent those whom they remember.
For example: during the first music segment – about loneliness — I might place a flower for my frustration at work; during the second, I might place four flowers to remember three people who have died and a friend who is estranged from me; during the third, I might place a flower for the way I am growing in my faith; during the fourth, I might place two flowers, one for world peace and another for hope.
The service acknowledges the darkest night of the year and symbolically allows us to acknowledge the darker parts of the human condition and our own lives. In the midst of darkness, we still experience moments of light and hints of hope.
In addition to the spiritual help needed, here are some practical tips from two physicians at UMMC.