Just as you make it through the grief of the winter holiday season, Valentine’s Day hits. If you are grieving a loved one, this day can be like salt in a wound. It is natural to revisit grief on anniversaries and holidays, but it can be very challenging to weather all the commercial reminders that Valentine’s Day brings.
You will make it through. It might not be pretty, and that is OK. Grief is messy. Let yourself off the hook of moving through the day with poise or grace. Instead, let yourself feel however you feel. Whether it has been one, two, ten or twenty years, it is only natural that you would miss the special person in your life.
Have a plan for any holiday or anniversary can help reduce the anxiety that comes with anticipation—even if you toss out “the plan” at the last minute! It can give you a sense of being in control of something, and you may learn some helpful coping skills, such as meditation and self-care.
Here are a few ways you can cope with grief on Valentine’s Day:
Cultivate compassion for yourself and others. While suggesting that you “be your own Valentine” may sound a bit corny, and won’t fill the void left when a loved one dies, try reframing the Valentine’s Day message from that of romantic love to a love of all beings: animals, spiritual leaders, friends, family, strangers, yourself, and even those pesky difficult people.
Show yourself kindness and mercy. You probably have been bombarded by social media images of Valentine’s Day since January 2. Offset the suffering you feel by sending yourself words of compassion and mercy: “This is hard, but I am doing my best.” “May I be free from my suffering, and surrounded by love.” Or “I feel this sadness because I love deeply. I would not trade that for anything.”
Commemorate the memory of your beloved. Love doesn’t go away, and we never forget. Nor would we want to. Whether you choose to volunteer for the day at your loved one’s favorite charity, visit their grave site, write them a letter, share your favorite stories about them with family or friends, or hike to your favorite vista, remembering your beloved with intention on this day is a way to continue the bond you share.
Plan an at-home retreat. You may want to stay home on Valentine’s Day and just take care of yourself. Whether it is crawling under the covers with a cup of hot chocolate (or a bag of chips) and reading a good book, or by immersing yourself in a day-long spa experience, take the day off, grab your grief journal, and give yourself the self-care you deserve.
Join a local widow/widower group. Call your local Hospice to see what is happening in your area. Maybe there is a brunch for those going through grief happening. If you are feeling especially motivated, you could start one yourself and invite grieving friends to join you.
Plan a meal with good friends or your family. Let the special people in your life know how you are feeling about this holiday and ask them to join you for a meal. Remember that restaurants will be full of Valentine’s Day triggers, so plan for that in advance. You may want to cook at home or ask a friend to host!
Plan for “business as usual.” It is totally acceptable to not celebrate the day at all. Of course, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to pretend Valentine’s Day doesn’t exist, so know that it is possible to have a grief reaction, even if you treat the day like any other. Put some of these other coping tools in your back pocket just in case!
Treat yourself. If everyone is getting chocolates and flowers and cards, why don't you send them to yourself (I won't tell if you give me candy). make Valentine's Day a day of celebration for the love that touched your life so greatly. Have a graveside picnic and toast the memories.