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Ask the Rock Doc: 
Dr. BLT offers advice for a song to music-minded youth and adults in crisis. 

The following inquiry has been paraphrased, with certain details omitted and/or altered to protect the confidentiality of the subject.

Dear Dr. BLT:

Hey doc. What's up? I used to love hearing Christmas songs every year and singing them. For the past couple of years I was the featured singer in a Christmas program held every year at the church I attend. Last year, just around Christmas time, my x-boyfriend at the time, Jerry, was killed in a car accident when we were driving home from a party together. We had both been drinking, but I only had one or two beers, he had quite a few more. I wanted to take the wheel, but he insisted that he was OK to drive. 

We originally planned to get married after we graduated from high school in June, but we broke up after I found him cheating on me. He was truly sorry for his actions and spent a lot of time crying and begging me to take him back. I was in the process of forgiving him, and we were beginning to at least form a strong friendship. Apart from his little fling, he was such a nice guy. He was a bass player in a band, a star athlete on the football team, and just an all-around fun-loving person. While I was in the middle of grieving over Jerry, I became pregnant with Matt, another guy at our church that I thought I loved at the time. I still think I love him, but can't stop thinking of Jerry. 

This year, I'm dreading Christmas, and especially Christmas music.  I can't even go shopping because they're already playing Christmas music and it just brings back that ugly, horrible accident. The music director at my church can't figure out why I don't want to sing in the Christmas program this year. He told me that I should just move on with my life, be there for my husband, and forget about my boyfriend. It's not that easy. I really miss my x. Any advice for a singer without a song, struggling to face a blue Christmas without her x? 

Mary X-Miss
 

Dear Mary X-Miss:

Your music director probably has good intentions, and his advice is not necessarily bad, but it seems insufficient in meeting your needs-not to mention, poorly timed. You are obviously still in the midst of a grief reaction and this is quite normal. Ideally, this grieving period is no time to form new attachments, to become pregnant with another man's child, or to marry. But you know what they say about hindsight. The best way to proceed is to face the reality of your situation, address the grief issues, and to make decisions that are in your own best interest-those that conform to the will of God for your life. 

There are a number of distinct stages associated the grieving process. The first is denial. Your rush to become intimately involved with someone new may indicate that you were in denial when you met Matt. That does not necessarily mean that you don't love him, and that your marriage is doomed to fail, it only means that your love may be complicated by other confusing elements that will need to be sorted out. 

You may still be in denial to some degree. Since the grieving process does not always follow a predictable, stepwise pattern, you have probably visited other stages of grief and have, to some degree, suffered with unresolved and intense anger, despair, and hopelessness. I never diagnose anyone unless I have seen that person face to face, and have had an opportunity to formally evaluate him or her. However, I believe that, given the circumstances surrounding your former boyfriend's death, you are likely to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or at least certain features associated with this syndrome. This further complicates and prolongs the grieving period and may include disturbing images of the accident that keep coming back to haunt your mind and your spirit. 

Since it all happened around Christmastime, it is not surprising that aspects associated in your memory with the accident, such as Christmas songs, would stir up those anguishing memories and cause you pain. Christmas, and Christmas songs, which once symbolized joy, now also symbolize tragic loss and trauma. It is no wonder that you want to avoid Christmas, Christmas music, and all activities that trigger memories of that terrifying event. You may also be experiencing sleep difficulties, outbursts of anger, concentration problems and jumpiness.  If I am correct in assuming that your grief and grief-related emotional turbulence is further complicated by these sorts of symptoms, then you will need more than the comfort of friends. You will need professional help from a mental health professional in your community. 

In your case, I think it is important that your psychologist at believes in God.Perhaps your pastor knows of a psychologist who is a Christian.  I'm a firm believer in what I call Psychoprayerapy. A Christian psychologist will understand what I do-God is the one who sent His only son to earth (in the form of an infant in a manger) so that we could be saved from our sin, so I don't believe He wants you to simply avoid Christmas every year. 

I would recommend gradually exposing yourself to Christmas songs, even if the exposure is limited to listening to a song or two during the course of each therapy session. Start with painful songs like “Blue Christmas” or “It Ain't Christmas Without You” if you prefer. These will get you in touch with your true feelings. Explore all of the pain and suffering you are feeling. In the meantime, though professional help is required in your case, support and comfort of family, friends and fellow believers will also go a long way to assist in the healing your damaged emotions. 

There is the little matter of your husband, Matt. You have given your heart to him, and have committed yourself to him as his wife. He will need you to be emotionally available to him. Don't shut him out of the process, even if he gets jealous over lingering feelings of loss you have as a result of your past attachment to Jerry. Share your pain with him, and the two of you will get closer. You will need to be seen individually at first, but at some point, he will need to be brought into the therapy process.. 

I am hopeful that your life will someday include your husband, your singing, and Christmas music in particular. I would encourage you to gradually let Christmas music back into your life. It is beautiful, and the message is one that can eventually offer "tidings of comfort..." to your troubled soul as it delivers you from your overwhelming feelings of grief. Once you're ready to hear Christmas music again, e-mail me, and I'll send you a list of Christmas songs that are tailored to your specific needs, with your present condition in mind. Next year I expect you'll be ready for a new list. Who knows? That one may even include songs like “Jingle Bells,” “Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree” and “Joy to the World.” What a difference a year can make!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and Matt from Santa Shrink, aka Dr. BLT, the shrink-rappin rock doc. 

Dr. BLT

P.S.  I hope that your pregnancy led to the birth of a healthy, happy baby.  The greatest Christmas gift you can give your new baby, is to address these issues through prayer, psychotherapy and 'psychoprayerapy', so that you can give the baby all of the attention he or
she deserves and so desperately needs from a mother.

E-mail letters to Dr. BLT at drblt@drblt.com
 
 

Dr. BLT, aka Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, is a Christ-centered licensed clinical psychologist and university instructor who specializes in the psychology of modern music.  He uses his original songs as well as those of other artists to address the problems of his patients, including his biggest, sickest, most challenging patient--society.

His face and name recognition, particularly with teens, comes from his short part on a long Cake music video--the Cake video for “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” that earned the band a nomination for Ground Breaking Music Video of the Year on the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards. 


 
 
 
 

 

 
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