I don’t want to alarm you, but I just had a look at the calendar and it’s almost Valentine’s Day. I know some of you were planning to skip from February 13 straight to February 15th, but I can’t let you do that because then you’d be living a day ahead of everyone and you’d miss all your appointments and favorite TV.
Valentine’s Day is one of those “I appreciate you” holidays, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. As such, there’s a whole faction of people who would prefer to ignore the holiday altogether…you know…because the person they’re supposed to appreciate is dead.
I won’t go into all the reasons why grief and Valentine’s Day don’t mix well; if the day is hard for you, you already have an idea why. What I thought we could do is discuss a few options for making it through the day.
1. Take the day to be completely miserable. It’s okay to be miserable once in a while. This is one day when you’re not alone in your misery; a lot of people hate Valentine’s Day.
2. Ignore the day altogether. Ignore the obnoxious jewelry commercials, ignore the cards, ignore the chocolates, ignore the girl sitting next to you at the doctor’s office chatting on her cell phone about which pair of heels she’s going to wear with her red hot mini-dress for her 7:30 reservations at…you know what? Just stay home…stay home and don’t turn on the TV.
I can sense you’re beginning to lose confidence in my suggestions. It may not be realistic to pretend the day doesn’t exist and you don’t really want to spend the day feeling miserable. So let me offer one more suggestion.
3. Reframe how you think about the day.
Typically when we think of Valentine’s Day we think of romance, that’s why the day is stereotypically hard on people who don’t have a “date”. But look deeper and we see at the heart of the day is ‘love’ (pun completely intended). Valentine’s Day ought to be about giving and receiving love of ALL kinds.
I can hear some of your starting to groan. Stop that, it’s not as cheesy as it sounds and you can embrace Valentine’s Day in all sort of ways, big and small.
- Invite a group of people over for a casual get together or dinner party.
- Plan a night out with others who have experienced the same loss. Acknowledge the day is hard, but make it your goal to have fun and laugh. Go to the movies and see a comedy, have a game night, bowl, go to a comedy club, sing karaoke.
- Allow your children to pick an activity. Let them dream as big as your budget will allow. Grieving children need opportunities to have good normal fun and seeing them smile will warm your heart a bit. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that being together as a family highlights who is missing and take every chance you get to remember and talk about your loved one, even if it’s just to say “Dad would have loved this”.
- Let someone close to you know you are feeling down but don’t want to be alone. Invite them over for a quiet night in.
- Have a movie night with your kids. Choose to watch feel-good movies like comedies, animation, or cheesy old classics. Order pizza and put on your PJ’s.
- Send a card or flowers to a friend or family member who you know is also feeling down on Valentine’s Day. Perhaps they are grieving the same loss you are or they have experienced some other hardship. Let them know they are not alone.
- Volunteering your time with an organization or charity is an excellent way to interact and connect with people while also helping others. Consider choosing an organization your loved one would have supported and tell yourself you’re doing it in his/her honor.
- Attend or join a group of any kind. I’m leaving this broad for a reason. Support groups are an excellent way to receive and give support, but there is also benefit in joining any group that gathers around something you like. Camera clubs, choirs, prayer groups, widow/widower happy hours, you name it; they all allow for the benefit of human interaction and recreation.
- Set out to do 5 acts of kindness throughout the day. Big or small, they will put more love into the world and will have the added consequence of letting you feel good about yourself.
- Write a letter. Write to anyone. Write to an organization or professional you think is doing a good job. Write to an individual you know who is struggling. Write to a child or adolescent you want to encourage. Write to your deceased loved one.
- Make a monetary donation. Make it in honor of your loved one for the amount you might have spent on dinner and a movie.
- Set out to do 1 act of kindness during the day.
- Spend the day volunteering at an animal rescue or SPCA. Don’t underestimate how good puppy love can make you feel.
- If you’ve been feeling lonely, consider fostering or adopting a pet. Consider…carefully. Don’t rush into bringing an animal into your home until you’re sure your ready.
- Spoil your pet. Spend the day with your dog at a dog park or snuggle up with your cat on the couch.
- Make a monetary donation to a charity benefiting animals. Here is a list of national animal-assisted therapy program including guide dogs. These programs bring love to suffering individuals in hospitals, hospices, and beyond.
Love for Yourself:
All Kind of Steps
- Recognize your limitations. Don’t push yourself into an activity you’re not up to.
- Treat yourself. Taking budget into consideration, take yourself out for a day of relaxation – whatever that means to you. It may be a spa treatment, retail therapy, or a monster truck rally; as long as it relieves stress or makes you smile, anything goes.
- Deliberately set aside time to engage in any activity that helps you cope with grief – exercise, yoga, journaling, art, etc.
- Allow yourself to be really present with your loved one’s memory and allow yourself to cry for as long as you like. We all have our rituals and reminders that make us feel close to deceased loved ones, go ahead and engage in them.
- Believe that next year will be a little bit easier.
I hope something we’ve suggested helps. If not, feel free to reach out to us for company on the 14th.
Talking about how to deal with tough days is a common thread on What’s Your Grief. Subscribe to receive updates about blog posts.