Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

Grief, Loss and The Hallmark Channel

Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 3.11.44 PMNormally after a traumatic event I try to make sense of it. After 9/11 I was glued to the TV, watching everything trying to understand what was impossible to understand. But after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando last June that left 49 people dead, I couldn’t watch anything on the news. Not a thing. So I did something I’d never done before:

I watched a Hallmark Channel movie. Actually, I watched a lot of them because there are actually two Hallmark Channels (one is Movies and Mysteries).

There was a certain comfort in the predictability: no violence to speak of. Dead bodies were remarkably intact, no blood or missing limbs. The plots of what were mostly mysteries were easily solved in two hours (including commercials). Sex was limited to hugs and kisses.

The themes were consistent: life in big cities (especially New York) was bad; life in small towns was good. No one could really be happy unless they accepted that because true love and a sense of purpose could not be found in Manhattan or Los Angeles.

Not that there weren’t things that bothered me: all of the lead characters were white. People of color – when seen – played supporting roles or filled in the background. No one was LGBTQ. People with disabilities were largely left out. Religion – which did not come up as often as I expected – was Christian and non-denominational.

I eased off watching the movies until after the election. Once again I felt the need for escapism. But this time it coincided with both channels’ switch to holiday movies. This time, I found something very unexpected in virtually every movie:


It took me a while to realize that the plot conflicts were less about big city vs. small town and almost entirely about the grieving process. Characters who had suffered great losses – spouse, parent, even child – had given up on Christmas and on life itself. They were alive but not living. Their spirits had died with their loved ones.

Someone – a family member, concerned friend or Santa in disguise – makes it their mission to bring that person back to life. Yes, predictable. But…

What I found most comforting is that none of these storylines encouraged the griever to ‘get over it’. Some characters did insist it was ‘time’, but ‘time’ to enjoy life again, not time to dismiss their grief.

So even as most, though not all, ended up embracing a new romantic love, they did so knowing it did not mean pretending they hadn’t lost someone dear to them. Those they lost would still be important, still guide them in their new lives. Loss changed them, but it didn’t have to destroy them.

And that’s a good reminder for us all, no matter who we grieve.