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Valentine’s Day and Grief

jstevenson | Journeys through Grief

Love. That four letter word which has been the subject of countless songs, books, poems, and movies. It’s the central message of the great faiths of the world and something Psychology Today calls a force of nature bigger than ourselves.

Love is a 365 day a year emotion, but it takes center stage in February. Led by the Valentine’s Day holiday, it will be highlighted by more than 1 billion greeting cards exchanged, $1 billion worth of chocolate purchased, 189 million stems of roses sold, and approximately 220,000 marriage proposals.

For those who are grieving the loss of someone they love, February can also be a very difficult. Among all the red hearts, roses, chocolates, and dinners to celebrate love, there are many who will not have their special someone with them this year. The paradox of Valentine’s Day and loss is that love and grief are intimately intertwined. You do not grieve if you haven’t loved, and when you decide to love, you open yourself up to grieving at some point in life.

This paradox may make the day even more difficult to endure than others. If you are struggling this Valentine’s Day, there are practical steps you can take to help. Just as rituals in funeral help us work through our grief, here are some suggestions for things to do (or not do) to help you get through:

  • Give yourself permission to be sad. All the reminders around you may cause you to feel sad. Those are real emotions, and you should feel free to allow yourself to embrace those feelings.
  • Surround yourself with good friends. The company of others is often comforting and uplifting. You can get together for a meal, a movie, or a favorite activity. Perhaps you can start a new tradition that you’ll enjoy in the years ahead.
  • Ignore the holiday. Sure, it’s hard to do when you’re bombarded by commercials and retail store displays of red hearts. But just because the calendar says it’s Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you have to celebrate it. Many people don’t. They treat it as just another day.
  • Pamper yourself. Even if you ignore the holiday, you can still make it a special day with the focus on you. Go to a spa, get a massage, enjoy a favorite meal, or just curl up and read a book or watch a movie. Make it a day for you.
  • Write down your thoughts. Keeping a journal about your emotions and memories can help you through your grief. It helps organize your thoughts and recall precious memories of your loved one.
  • Hang out with the grandkids. (If you have some). Nothing brings more smiles and joy than the opportunity to spend time with your grandchildren. Spoiling them feels so good!
  • Reaching out and helping others is a wonderful way to make a difference. It also helps our own mental state as it puts our own personal struggles in perspective.
  • Honor your loved one. Celebrate the life of your loved one in your own way. Enjoy a meal that the two of you loved to share. Light a candle. Plant a memorial tree. Visit a place where you have special memories.

Commemorating Valentine’s Day alone, especially for the first time, can be difficult. Since there is no timeline in grief, you are under no pressure to stop experiencing the complexity of emotions on this day, or any day, in the weeks, months and years ahead. The relationship between love and grief is deep and eternal.