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Paint Your Holiday the Way You Want It to Be
Shirley’s husband of 42 years died suddenly of a heart attack this spring. For the past nine months, Brittany’s husband has served in the US military in Iraq. It was supposed to be their first Christmas together, but he wasn’t home. Martha is homeless and lives in an assisted living facility; her family is hundreds of miles away. Stewart’s son died; everyone asked how his wife was, but no one asked how he was feeling. Shelley was recently divorced and was living with her mother again.
There is a myth that holiday grief only affects those who have lost loved ones.In fact, the sadness and anxiety of the holidays affects many people—all experiencing different life-changing situations that challenge them to find a the reason for this season. For everyone, holiday celebrations will change; they won’t be what they used to be.
maybe you remember saturday evening post In the 50s and 60s? Norman Rockwell’s photographs always tell a story. His photographs portray American life and values. People flocked to newsstands to buy the famous magazine and found ecstasy in the scenes he illustrated.his era and postal It ended in 1963, but his masterpiece continues to tell the story of life the way it used to be.
In our lives today, whether or not we grew up in the Norman Rockwell era, we all construct visual images worthy of a Norman Rockwell holiday album. In the back of our minds, we remember the “ideal” holiday activity and the positive emotions surrounding it. Rockwell’s holiday theme depicts a lively, brave Santa Claus full of surprises; playful children, perfect families enjoying a typical house party; a holiday meal; building a snowman; and chasing the mailman. Everything in his photos is perfect. Rockwell once said, “I paint life the way I want it to be.”
We are influenced by the great images of artists like Rockwell. If only life were always “as we want it to be”. Unfortunately, the reality of life is sometimes harsh. We try to avoid them by misinterpreting the truth and creating a mythical euphoria. We wrestle with the daze of holiday sadness and succumb to myths that complicate our already cloudy perception of the upcoming holiday season. Sadness and holidays are accompanied by many myths.
What is a myth?
A myth is a story or something untrue that may be passed down from generation to generation like a legend. It is usually a fabricated story or fact that cannot be verified. However, myths are easy things to believe—Because we want to believe it.
The grief of loss makes us vulnerable to many myths. Things are not always what they seem. Our beliefs and attitudes are very powerful forces in our lives. We have an idea of what a vacation should look like based on past vacations and “ideal” vacations. Often, our perception of the holidays can be a myth. We believe everything has to be perfect or the holidays aren’t worth celebrating.
What kind of vacation are you thinking about this year? Is this a season of doom and gloom, or can you put the sadness aside and create a Norman Rockwell-esque vacation that’s nearly perfect? Or, at least, it’s a vacation at its best.
It is possible to alter myths and create new realities that will allow you to move through the season with grace and sanity, under your own control. Here are some ideas on how to debunk these myths and replace them with new realities.
Myth: Holiday grief begins on Christmas Eve and ends after New Year’s Day or when the decorations fall.
the truth: For some, the holidays may start early. In fact, the holiday may start as early as Halloween. In our neighborhood, the holidays start just before deer hunting season. Usually we hit the first snow and the men start celebrating the “spirit” of deer hunting, while the women start building the “spirit of the season” by shopping. This is tradition.
After the death of our son Chad, the tradition lost its luster. The harsh reality is — hunting isn’t as exciting as it used to be, and Chad won’t be going either. Some friends gave us a DVD of Chad at his last hunting party at the lodge. It has been 14 years since his death. The DVD was on our desk because we were all so terrified of seeing his image and experiencing the original loss all over again. In the end we played the DVD and shed tears of joy (and sadness) witnessing the spirit of our beautiful son who loves to “clown”, dance, and hang out with guys. It’s a “good” cry.
The holidays still revolve around our hunting season, but it’s not about the hunt anymore. Gary gave up hunting, but I didn’t give up shopping. The focus is not on Christmas and gifts, but around having a community holiday grief program and enjoying ongoing relationships with family and friends.
So how do you bust the myths and create a manageable vacation? Come up with a time frame for your vacation…it could be a week, a few days, or how long you consider a “difficult” time. Create a signal for yourself telling you when the time period is over. For us, the queue was tearing down the Christmas tree.this is our logo comfort The holidays are over and we can get back to our daily routines.
Be prepared for uncomfortable moments and flippant questions and comments. You will get them. In your mind, determine how you are going to answer and stick to your rehearsed answer. Plan to escape. If you are in a “captive” situation, drive your own car. Or find an excuse when you want to leave. You decide when.
I can imagine Norman Rockwell painting this scene of today’s world. I see a “getaway” car that happens to be parked on the side of the road with the motor still running when Uncle Jack pats you on the back and says, “You’re strong. Keep your upper lip stiff.”
myth: At a party, it is not appropriate to mention fond memories of a deceased loved one. This can make other people feel uncomfortable.
Truth: The holidays are a time for reflection. Remembering our loved ones is critical to our health and recovery. Stories and memories stay with us throughout our lives and are one of the true sources of joy.
Create a safe environment and remember it out loud. Say his or her name and chuckle at the rich life story. Shed a tear and say silently, “I still love you.” Teach others that love is eternal; you need to remember; this is the reality of how you deal with grief.
I can imagine Norman Rockwell painting the scene today. Using the hottest scrapbooking trick, the family might gather around a loosely bound and beautifully illustrated collection. It is an endless volume of pictures telling life stories through stamping techniques, various mementos, anecdotes and written explanations of specific events or dates. Memory candles burn lightly on the same table. Family and friends of all ages shared the experience with different expressions: smiles, tears, chuckles, accusations and hugs.
Myth: Traditions are things you do year after year, they are not meant to change.
the truth: Just because we always do it doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate our celebrations with new ideas that fit this generation and the moment.
Every family goes through lifestyle changes—changes that affect how traditions continue or end. The kids leave for college. Parents become “empty nesters” and “snowbirds”. Teenagers want to spend more time with friends than with relatives during the holidays. Aging parents don’t want to cook; so, they may choose to eat out.
At some point, we seem to have moved beyond traditions like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Maybe a family death is one of those things that means “let’s try something new”.
So how do you bust this myth and create a manageable vacation? Keep an open mind. Reflect on past changes in other families as well as in your own family. If traditions bring up unpleasant memories, change them. Don’t be a puppet and let someone else tell you how to spend your day. There are no set rules. Host a family competition to see who can come up with the best “new” tradition. Taking pride in a tradition that works is admirable.
I can picture Norman Rockwell today with a Christmas tree glowing with red, blue, orange and fuchsia LED lights, and grandma and grandpa playing a thrilling game on the big-screen plasma TV. Wii bowling game. (Bet they beat the grandkids!)
Myth: When the second holiday rolls around, I shake off the sadness and go back to old traditions.
the truth: The second vacation can be just as sad as the first. For many, going back to old holiday traditions is no longer an option.
For us, the second vacation was not as relaxing as I originally thought. But because we changed traditions on our first holiday, it was good to be more receptive to that change, and we want to do it again.
Remember that grieving is a process and takes different times to heal each of us. Don’t rush the process. If the second vacation is still a bit of a pain, you can try a third vacation while working to remove the barriers between peace and the past. The holidays will always lack some precious moments from previous years, but this does not mean that the holidays cannot be beautiful.
The real positive impact of working through holiday sadness is “giving to others”. Giving means not gifts, but time and yourself. There are many people in need in every community. Volunteer at charity events. Sound the alarm for the Salvation Army. Choose a gift name from The Giving Tree. Do something for someone who “feels good”.
I can imagine Norman Rockwell picturing this kind of life change: depicting bereaved parents cooking in the large kitchen of a local shelter, or placing a loving hand on the shoulders of the less fortunate Comfort them gently. Church bells rang softly outside the window, and delicate snowflakes drifted under the street lamps. A bright star – the star of hope shines brightly in the distance.
Hope is a spiritual attitude, the energy of the soul. It challenges myths and creates new realities. Norman Rockwell’s illustrations today may be markedly different from those of the past. His gift will be to portray human values that show a profound sensitivity to the pain of life. While he shows “the life I want,” new illustrations can prove triumph over grief and life “as it is.” This year, like Norman Rockwell, create a new canvas. Picture your vacation the way you want it.
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