Shirley’s husband of 42 years died suddenly this spring of a heart condition. Brittany’s husband served in the U.S. Army in Iraq for the past 9 months. This was supposed to be their first Christmas together, but he won’t be home. Martha is homebound and lives in an assisted living facility; her family is hundreds of miles away. Stuart’s son died; everyone asks how his wife is doing, but no one asks how he is feeling December Global Holidays. Shelley was recently divorced and lives with her mother, again.
There is a myth that holiday grief affects only those who have lost a loved one. The truth is holiday grief and anxiety affects many people-all experiencing different life changing situations that challenge them to find a reason for the season. For each, holiday celebrations will change; and they aren’t going to be what they used to be.
Perhaps, you remember the paintings and covers of the Saturday Evening Post during the 50’s and 60’s? Norman Rockwell’s pictures always told a story. His pictures portrayed American life and values. People rushed to the newsstands to buy the prestigious magazine and find rapture in the scenes he illustrated. His era with Post ended in 1963, but his masterpieces continued to tell the stories of life the way it used to be.
In our lives today, whether or not we grew up in Norman Rockwell times, we build visual images worthy of the Norman Rockwell collection of holiday paintings. In our minds, we remember the “ideal” holiday event and the positive emotions surrounding it. Rockwell’s holiday themes depict a vivacious, spunky Santa full of surprises; frolicking children, and perfect families enjoying typical family gatherings; festive meals; building snowmen; and chasing the postman. Everything in his pictures is perfect. Rockwell once said, “I paint life as I’d like it to be.”
We are influenced by the great images of artists such as Rockwell. If only life could always be “as we would like it to be.” Unfortunately, the realities of life are sometimes harsh. We try to avoid them by misinterpreting the truths and creating a mythical sense of euphoria. We struggle through the daze of holiday grief and give in to myths that complicate our already clouded view of the coming holidays. Grief and holidays come burdened with many myths.