Dealing With Holiday Depression

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The holidays are not necessarily happy times for everyone. Those who are grieving the loss of a loved one can be particularly sad at Christmastime. That’s why many churches offer prayer services specifically designed to help people who feel a void during this festive season. Reed Galin visited one congregation that is reaching out in Atlanta.

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Robert Payne: “As the holidays approach, I have a lot of feelings.”

Into every life, some rain must fall. But sometimes it becomes a torrent.

Robert Payne: “Any time you’ve lost a loved one, you have to find it within yourself to go on. And I think we find that strength from a lot of places.”

Robert Payne finds it in Atlanta’s Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.  Very specifically, this time of year, at one particular service on the night of the winter solstice, December 21st.

Betsy Lunz, Minister of Pastoral Care, Peachtree Road United Methodist Church:  “We invite everyone who’s lost a loved one.”

Betsy Lunz organizes the service.

Betsy Lunz:  “Symbolically, that recognizes the extent of grief, how the darkness that we feel in times of loss seems endless.”

Robert Payne: “The longest night is really just an opportunity to stop and focus and really be close to what I really feel during this time of year.”

Most Sundays, Cathy Inabnit blends in with all the other parishioners. The hugs and the handshakes, the heightened tenor of the season are heartfelt, but are also a disguise for her and others.

Cathy Inabnit: “We expect of ourselves to be able to project this, ‘I have it all under control,’ you know, ‘I’m fine. Yes, oh my mother died but I’m doing just fine.’ And it’s so seldom that we’re in an environment where we can say, ‘No, I am really hurting.’” 

But solstice also marks a turning – each day growing longer, each night, a little less darkness.

Cathy Inabnit: “Those churches that aren’t doing something like this, the congregation is missing out.”


Many churches do offer similar “longest night” services on December 21st.

To learn more about the program at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, contact Betsy Lunz at 404-240-8237 or