Valentine’s Day When Your Valentine Died

It’s almost February 14th. How can you tell? Well, since December 10th every store you’ve entered has had an aisle of red hearts, weird looking cupids, and frogs holding hearts in their hands. I’m not entirely sure when frogs and SpongeBob entered the world of romance, but now they have. V Day is unavoidable in our culture. FB is beginning to explode. Pinterest is out of control. You suddenly can’t buy bakery goods without red sparkles. The message is “Be happy! Love is yours!”

Except the love of your life died recently. Or your mom, or dad, or child. Maybe your child’s kitty. You try to avoid the red heart craziness, and the rip it adds to your heart every time you see it. You’re not going to go out to eat this Sunday, and you may skip church because there will inevitably be mention of the day. Your Valentine’s Day may be a trip to the cemetery, or to a place where you can remember previous days with happiness attached.

You may need a card for someone else in your village, and that requires that you brave the Hallmark aisle. You know that means seeing all those people who still have their Valentine or loved one picking out a card you will never get to buy again. I still have the anniversary card and Valentine’s cards I bought ahead for my parents and my dad. I can’t throw them away- but they will never be used by me.

How do we all get past a “holiday” that’s not a holiday, where the focus is on loving couples, smiling children, even Grumpy Cat not wishing you a happy day? How many times can your heart hurt this week because of the greeting card industry?

As a twice widowed person, I’ve found it’s helpful to plan ahead for “big” days. We never spent much on this particular day, but it was fun to buy a card and remember those we loved simply because we loved them. Now I am mindful of those who will be facing a different reality than the movies portray. I prepare those who are facing this the first time, because it seems so minor until it’s not, and catches you off guard. As a therapist and grief expert I want clients to know they will get through this if they plan, and find their village and their place for the day. So what do we do?

  • Journal ahead of time- where do you want to be to feel as okay as possible? Is there a place you can feel at peace even in sadness?
  • Envision that day. You wake up- what do you want to do? Mark the day? Avoid it entirely? Avoid the people you know simply can’t not be the Pinterest poster people?
  • Inventory your village. Is there someone or are there people you know will not have plans and might enjoy a different kind of day?
  • Remember past days and what they meant and involved. Do you want to do some of that to honor those memories, or are they too painful still to touch?
  • Make a plan for the day after the day- the day you know you got through it and are still coping. That’s a day you can celebrate.
  • Journal the day after. How did you feel your loved one’s memory and how did it help get through it all?
  • Remember you have total permission to not engage in anything you aren’t comfortable with then you are grieving. This is your time, your path, your process. My day at the beach may be your day to bake heart cupcakes with kids and to invest your energy there. Grief is personal. Nobody gets a vote but you.

So go be Grumpy Cat, or head to the archery range with a heart target. Make it a day to start a heart healthy routine, or a day to plan how to buy all the leftover chocolate on Monday.  Maybe that will be your Pinterest revenge- repurposed chocolate hearts and red gummy worms. And remember that if you need to talk we are here.