Service comforts the blue at Xmas

Amid the lights and colour and joy of Noel, there are often feelings of blue.

It’s reassuring that in Ponoka there is hope and comfort for those who need it.

The community’s Blue Christmas service will be held Dec. 21, 7 p.m. in the intimate surroundings of St. Mary’s Anglican Church.

“It’s a service to offer a quiet space in the hectic preparations from Christmas to reflect if Christmas isn’t going to be completely happy for you,” explained Ponoka United Church Rev. Beatrix Schirner, who will share hosting duties with the new priest at St. Mary’s, Alexandra Meek Sharman.

Not everyone can wish “Merry Christmas” and mean it.

“It’s a cheery season but obviously not everybody is cheery for all kinds of reasons.” Schirner said.

“For some people it’s the loss of employment, it could be the loss of a loved one or the memory of someone who died at this time that always gives a sad tinge to your Christmas celebrations.”

The Blue Christmas service, held on the darkest day of the year, gives everyone the opportunity “to partake in Christmas to the best of their ability, given the circumstances. It’s a time to honour loss.”

Schirner said there will be scripture readings during the service, musical selections and an opportunity to light candles, bring some light into the darkness and reflect.

Feelings of depression and loneliness increase at Christmas

According to suicide prevention information, contrary to popular myth suicide rates decrease during December. However, depression, alcoholism and feelings of loneliness increase significantly.

Psychologist Dr. Michael Trew of Calgary explained that one reason for holiday depression is biological.

“A large (number) of people suffer from seasonal defective disorder,” he said. “They often start feeling depressed in November when days get shorter and there is less light. Usually they begin to pick up in March.”

Trew also mentioned that anniversaries of losses around the Christmas season are hard to forget.

“Christmas is a time when people are ‘supposed’ to spend time with family and friends,” Trew said. “When you’re in the situation where that doesn’t happen it just reinforces the feeling of being alone.”

Another factor he mentioned was when support systems such as work or school are gone for two or three weeks it makes life more difficult. Too much celebration and drinking can also create problems. Alcohol is a depressant therefore an increase in consumption can “take things from bad to worse.”

As for advice on preventive methods, Trew listed a few to consider.

“These are the times when individuals should reach out to connect with people and build up some support network. Plan to do things on days you’re feeling especially alone.”

Trew suggested volunteer work or simply getting out to watch a movie or play — something enjoyable.

“If Christmas is going to be a difficult time for you, plan for that. Get a head start and try to make it easier for yourself.”