How Binging on HGTV Helped me Through Loss

posted in: Community, Mindfulness | 0

Last week was a travel week for my husband and me. We spent a week in Houston along with 11,000 other Rotarians from around the world for the Rotary International Convention. It wasn’t the best week of travel. While waiting at the airport to depart, we received word that my sweet, beautiful mother-in-law made her transition from this world. It was not unexpected. She celebrated her 100th birthday in January, and that was enough for her. And still, it’s never easy.

This changed the focus of the trip, as you can imagine. Instead of spending time socializing when we weren’t in meetings, we spent a lot of time alone together in the quiet of our hotel room. Watching HGTV.

Now I should preface this by saying that we don’t have a television at home. We’ll occasionally watch a movie on Netflix or the Dodgers play during baseball season, but for the most part I’m a reader. But when we travel, we often binge watch HGTV, and the reason why never occurred to me, until I mentioned it to a friend.

My friend said that when her husband died, she too watched a lot of HGTV. She said that it brought some order to the chaos. In one half-hour to hour show, everything was resolved. A house was found, a mess was made beautiful, happily-ever-afters were created. It’s a mindless escape from what’s going on in your life, a bit of a vacation if you will. Plus it’s uplifting and there is no violence involved.

While escapism is not usually my first choice, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with escaping in a healthy way now and then, as long as it’s not the destructive kind (drugs, alcohol, self harm, harm of others, etc.). It lets you momentarily step away from overwhelming emotions, so that you can view things from a fresh perspective. The trick is to not make escapism your automatic response to stressful situations. And while short periods of distraction can be helpful, they can easily lead to avoidance or denial if one is not aware. So escape to HGTV and then return to real life quickly to face those emotions in a mindful, healthy way.

We are back home now, and processing the grief of losing an extraordinary woman who I was blessed to have in my life. She was loved by many and made her mark in this world in countless ways.

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