When I was younger, I loved Hallmark commercials. They would strike a chord and some would even bring me to tears. I would purposely stop what I was doing and take the time to watch. Getting wrapped up in the warm fuzzy feeling leading me to believe that the world was a perfect place full of perfect people.

That was until real life slapped me with a dose of reality. My happily ever after turned out to be not so happy. The life I dreamed about was nothing like the one I’d been handed. My perfect family shattered by a cheating husband. The perfect home and white picket fence, here one day and gone the next. Yet, those commercials continued portraying a fantasy that was nothing like the reality most of us live.

Every holiday had its commercial. All with the perfectly dressed people. Everyone smiling, sitting around a perfectly set table. Even the kids are behaving. Not like any family gathering I’ve ever attended. No talk of politics or religion. No raised voices or arguments. No kids spilling milk or having a meltdown while their stressed-out parents desperately tried to clean up the mess. Nope, everyone down to the family dog was absolutely perfect.

I remember my first Valentine’s Day after my divorce. Walking into the Hallmark store was like having someone run their fingers down a chalkboard. My boys both needed special cards and hearts that were only sold in their store. So here I am single and broken-hearted watching all the men and women gushing over finding that perfect card or gift for their loved one. Walking through the aisle of love I wanted to puke. I wanted to scream at those happy people and tell them that life can suck. I wanted to yell hey, Do you have a section for us losers? Anything for first-time divorcees? How about a section of real-life cards. How about a hate card to the man or woman who screwed up your dreams. Do you make a card for a child to send to their parents who’ve walked out the door never to return?

Nope. It’s all just blue skies and fantasy land.

Christmas was always the worst for me. Those commercials were back and once again reminded me of what I no longer had. The two-parent family celebrating the holiday. Kids running down the stairs to a tree full of gifts while two happy parents watched from a distance holding hands. In real life, many families share custody of their children. Packing them up at whatever time agreed upon and shuffling them between houses. My boys would spend mornings with me, having breakfast and opening gifts. Just when we were settling in I would have to pack them up and watch their father drive them away. Turning on the TV and seeing the fairy tale family would make me want to throw a brick into the TV hoping to hit those perfect people smack in the face.

Just when I started to recover from the Perfect Christmas blues, New Years hit and once again I was reminded of my plight as a divorced woman. The unrealistic commercials again flooding my brain with what should be, but was not. Happy couples clinking glasses and toasting each other. Sharing loving glances and a kiss.

I always wondered if those who wrote for the company ever experienced real life. Were they unaware of the impact their commercials and cards had on people in the not so perfect world? If you weren’t depressed before a commercial you certainly would be after. The idea that every family consisted of two parents, two children, living grandparents and a multitude of friends was pure fantasy.

Mother’s Day was another arrow through my heart. Once again as if by magic every mother and daughter had the perfect bond. Sharing lunch and laughter. Mani’s and Pedi’s. Everything coming up roses in perfect life land. Those were the commercials that really got me. Hey, not every mother and daughter are in love. Some aren’t even in like. I remember spending more time trying to find the perfect card for my mom. We had the “tolerate each other” type of relationship. My mother and I are oil and water. She is black and white and I am grey. Each card I picked up reminded me of the relationship I didn’t have with my mom. She wasn’t my best friend, she was my critic. She wasn’t always there for me, but she constantly reminded me of my mistakes. I remember going through so many cards that the saleswoman asked if I needed help. I chuckled and shared my dilemma. “Honey,” she said, “We don’t have a card like that!”

With age comes wisdom, with wisdom comes acceptance. I have grown to actually like myself. I accept my past for what it was and know I made lemonade out of those lemons life handed me many years ago. Imagine my surprise while looking for a baby shower card. I grabbed one quickly and realized it was for two moms. A lesbian couple having a baby. Wow, I turned it over and saw that famous label. It’s about damn time. Welcome to the real world.


MaryBeth Cichocki is a retired registered nurse living in the state of Delaware. She lost her youngest son, Matt, to an overdose of prescription drugs on January 3rd 2015. After his death she was unable to return to her world of taking care of critically ill babies in the N.I.C.U. She now spends her time advocating and writing about the disease of addiction. She started a blog shortly after Matt died titled Mothers Heart Break, ( mothersheartbreak.com ) which tells the story of Matt’s addiction and continues into the present as she deals with complicated grief. MaryBeth also facilitates a support group for those suffering the loss of a loved one due to the disease of addiction. (Support After Addiction Death). MaryBeth has testified in her states Capitol during the Joint Finance Committee hearings, sharing her story of the difficulty she experienced while trying to find comprehensive treatment for her adult son during his addiction. She works with legislators in her state to implement changes in how the disease of Substance Use Disorder will be treated in the future. She played a pivotal role in the passing of 6 Bills in Delaware related to treatment for those suffering from Substance Abuse Disease. MaryBeth is passionate about saving other mothers from her grief. She is a wife, mother, grandmother and dog rescuer.

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