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Feelings and Emotions: Sweet Melancholy

Updated on December 1, 2012


“a sober thoughtfulness; a pensiveness.”

The primary definition for melancholy is “a prolonged depression.” For the purpose of this article I will be using the secondary definition, which is seen above….a sober thoughtfulness.

However, what’s with the sweet melancholy title? How can a sober thoughtfulness be sweet?

To answer that question, I believe a certain perspective needs to be attained. Perhaps the perspective comes from maturity. Perhaps, maturity and experience are the twin-answers that bring with them clarity of mind. I know that when I was young, there were certainly emotions, and there was most definitely raw pain associated with melancholy.

My father died in my arms when I was twenty. Massive heart attack; one minute he was there, and the next, gone. One minute I’m home from college, having a little rest and relaxation, and the next minute I’m in mourning and my foundation has shifted and crumbled.

There was nothing sweet about that moment, and for years after I would be hard-pressed to find anything other than an open wound when I thought about it.

However, with time comes healing, and with healing comes that hard-to-find perspective, so that now, today, I can look back at my time with my father and think, not of the pain associated with his death, but the loving moments we shared together for those twenty years.

Sweet melancholy!

Sweet memories of my father
Sweet memories of my father | Source


I remember the first few Christmases after my son was born. The sparkling of tree lights in his eyes as he would sit in front of the tree and stare at the beauty, a look of absolute wonder on his face. Childlike innocence and fatherly love, all still there in my mind, waiting for me to play the video once again. It would be so very easy to find sorrow in those memories, for his mother and I divorced shortly after those first few holidays, and there is melancholy for sure, but today it is sweet melancholy, embracing the wondrous moments I had with my son during those first few years.

Playing cards with my sister, the sounds of laughter throughout the house as her children frolicked about, running to and fro. My sister and I had many wonderful moments together, and there was genuine love, and yet when she died in 2006, she and I were not speaking to each other. We were locked in a silent battle over a misunderstanding and distrust. Today I can embrace the decades of love that she and I shared, rather than wallow in guilt or shame.

I cannot think of the holidays without thinking of several I ruined because of my alcoholism. Make no mistake about it, I have caused pain in my lifetime. I have hurt people who loved me, and I have burned bridges that will never again be re-built. Still, today, I choose to remember the lessons I have learned, and the life I now have is wonderful because of those lessons learned. Would I have learned them if it were not for the pain associated with my addiction? Possibly, but I don’t believe so. I had to suffer in order to learn, and pain was a great and wise teacher for this man.

Sweet melancholy!

So many great memories to celebrate
So many great memories to celebrate | Source


That, really, is the question today, and I choose to dance! Life is to be savored! Life is to be celebrated! I do not avoid old memories, but instead I embrace the positives associated with those old memories.

When I think of sweet melancholy, I often think of the traditional “Irish wake.” Now, my friends from Ireland will most likely correct me, but my impression of an Irish wake goes something like this. In days gone by, the deceased was prepared for burial at home, and then was kept in the home for viewing. Neighbors, relatives and friends would come from near and far to view the body, and then a session of “keening” would occur, the traditional wailing and crying generally associated with this tradition.

Then off to another room they all go, where food and drinks await them, and a session of story-telling and laughter ensues, as each mourner tells of the happy times that they had with their dearly departed. It is a celebration of life, and a celebration of time well-spent with those who have passed on.

That, to me, is the perfect example of sweet melancholy.

My father would be eighty-eight today had he lived. I would love to be able to spend this upcoming holiday with him, to watch him interact with his grandson, who he would be so proud of, and to laugh with him as we once did. I have wished that now for forty-three years, and I will keep on wishing it until the day I die, at which time my son will take over the wishing duties, and the circle of life will continue.

Such is life, the bitter with the sweet, the laugher with the tears, and the joy with the heartache.

I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Do you have moments of sweet melancholy?

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All changes are more or less tinged with melancholy, for what we are leaving behind is part of ourselves.
Amelia Barr

And therein lies the truth. When we undergo change, a part of us is left behind, and that is the cause for the melancholy. I can think of my youth, the carefree days of running and laughing, playing the games of children. I was strong and lithe, ran like the wind, and my future was as grand as my mind could conjure. Time, however, has different plans for us, and today, instead of running free like the wind, I move with purposeful intent towards goals that seem more realistic and less whimsical. For me to feel melancholy for those earlier days is only natural, for they were a part of me that will never be again. Still, every time I think of those days gone by, I smile, for they were indeed wonderful, and they shaped me into the man I am today….and I like the man I am today!

And so it goes! Today I dance in the rain like that child of long ago. Today I embrace all that life has to offer, an embrace born from memories of days gone by. Today I love as I was raised to love; I laugh as I was raised to laugh. I face each day with a song, for my life has been sixty-four years of singing a melody only I could hear, and it is a sweet melody for sure.

It is a song of sweet melancholy, and it is eternal and never-ending!

2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


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