Elevating the Holiday Blues

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

The holidays are filled with all things festive and bright—but what if you are missing the cheer?

That’s where Palisadian Cathy Salser and Rev. Dr. Aliah K. MaJon come in, offering a series of classes, “Elevating the Holiday Blues.”

MaJon was inspired to create the workshops in 2004 when reflecting on her son’s death by suicide. She explained that the first year, the two-month period that surrounds the holidays for her family includes her birthday, her late son’s wife’s birthday and other milestones.

“We had this period of time when everybody around us, they were tiptoeing around us,” she shared. “People didn’t know all the details of what we were experiencing as a family.”

MaJon explained that it is very personal to her.

“I think when people are having the holiday blues—because of the time of the year and the way this season is seen by most folks—it’s almost like a secret,” she said. “You don’t want people to know that you hate when this time comes around or that it’s really challenging for you or that you’re very sad or that you’re crying more than people would want to know that you’re crying.”

This year, MaJon has teamed up with Salser—a Palisades High School graduate who continues to call the Palisades her home—to introduce an added element of healing through the arts to the series. Salser, a renowned artist and founder of A Window Between Worlds: Art Transforming Trauma, brings with her more than 25 years of experience

“For me, art has always been a way that I could touch into that deep place, a place where your reality is but it’s hidden from other people,” Salser explained. “So, art was always a way to connect into that space of the truth and to connect with others through art.”

MaJon explained that the goal is for attendees to unpack their baggage, to free up some of the congealed grief.

“They’re going to get to test new ways of thinking and see if they can arrive at a different perspective or different frame of reference for this time of year,” MaJon said. “And then they’re going to get to create new traditions, new ways of doing this time of year.”

Topics of the sessions include “How to Give Yourself Permission to Feel Bad,” “How to Give Yourself Permission to Feel Good,” “How to Be Inspired to Create New Holiday Traditions” and “What Are the Gifts That I Wish to Give Myself?”

Salser added that attendees will leave with a toolkit—complete with handmade touchstones.

“Through creating touchstones, they will have a way to hold onto these stepping stones in their life and to practice,” she said. “It’s incredibly reinforcing to actually walk away with almost like a toolkit … to carry these breakthroughs and these intentions and these wishes into presents in their life going forward.”

The annual course will take place this year in the Palisades Village Swarthmore Room on four Sundays this December (8, 15, 22 and 29) from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The fourth and final session will take place over the phone for those who may be traveling or unable to attend the in-person sessions.

Those who are interested in attending this year’s series can find out more information at http://evite.me/6TekeawKvS. Donations are accepted on a sliding scale, so attendees (or those who do not want to attend the series but would like to support it) can contribute on an as-able basis.