Coping with grief on Valentine's Day
Valentine’s Day has the potential to become one of the most upsetting days of the year, especially if you grieve the loss of your other half. It’s near impossible to avoid the build up to the “couple’s holiday” and even if you do, you can’t protect yourself from the emotional pain and the memories of being with your Valentine who is no longer with us. Grief experts suggest that in order to get around that, you need to have a plan.
This guide explains how to cope with grief on Valentine’s Day and suggests some of the things you can do to make it your day and avoid thinking about your loss.
Take the day off
The obvious thing to do is to take the day off, particularly if you are already dreading the pitiful looks from your colleagues at work. Make it your day and do whatever you wish but take the time to plan for it in advance so that your attention is away from the reminders of your loss.
Plan a day trip, visit a museum, an art gallery, meet up with a relative, a friend who is single or use it as an opportunity to have a lazy day at home. It’s your day and you decide how to spend it.
Do something creative
If you are the sort of person who prefers to express their emotions and feelings in a more creative manner, Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to do that. Unleash your creativity and use the emotional juxtaposition of the past and present to fuel your imagination and turn grief into art.
Write a short story or a poem, paint a picture or draw something that captures your mood and represents the feelings for your lost loved one. Think of the special moments you shared together or the places you visited and bring them to life in your chosen medium.
Send them your love
You don’t have to be a celebrated artist or a bestselling author to express your feelings and get into the spirit of the “couple’s holiday”. Use this day as another opportunity to tell your lost loved one how much they mean to you.
Write them a letter, a poem or a special message. Attach it to a balloon and release it from your favourite walk or the bench in the local park where you used to meet. Then sit back and watch the balloon go up in the sky delivering the message to your Valentine. If it’s more appropriate, you can send them your love as a message in a bottle instead.
Grief puts your body and mind under a lot of stress which has a devastating effect on your health and well-being. Slowing down and taking care of yourself should be a priority. That includes meditation, relaxation and other activities which have a calming effect and help to reduce your stress levels.
You shouldn’t need a reason to pamper yourself especially under these circumstances but if you do, 14 February is the perfect day for it. Book a spa day or have a massage, go for a sauna and steam after your workout at the gym, do yoga and anything else you consider pampering.
Be your own Valentine
If Valentine’s Day was “your day” and you can’t bear the thought of not celebrating it anymore, perhaps you need to consider starting a new tradition. Why not begin to recreate some of your most memorable moments together: your first date, the first meal you cooked etc.?
Decide on a theme and start the preparations early to avoid reminders of your loss and concentrate on being your own Valentine: buy yourself a present, a bunch of your favourite flowers and chocolates. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to do this as long as you do something to celebrate your love for that special person.
Do something in their honour
You can make Valentine’s Day your own by ignoring the rules and doing something completely different and unrelated to love. Think about your lost loved one’s favourite activity and arrange to do that on the day itself or near it. Maybe they had a favourite walk or a place that kept drawing them back? It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you dedicate your time to organising it and making it happen rather than getting upset by the reminders of your loss.
Sign up to do a challenge in aid of their favourite charity. That can be a good way to keep the memory of your lost loved one alive whilst helping a worthy cause in the process. If you are not ready for a commitment of that kind, you can volunteer your time or skills and make a difference that way.
Valentine’s Day is a cruel holiday for those of us who grieve the loss of a spouse or a partner. You can’t avoid the build up to it and you can’t avoid remembering some of your favourite Valentine’s. Expect to be upset and angry that you are left alone and lonely fighting your way through crowds of happy couples enjoying each other and celebrating their love. You are likely to notice that injustice, even if Valentine’s Day was never on your social calendar.
Use that predictability to prepare yourself and build a coping mechanism for the day itself and the build up to it. The suggestions in this article are a good starting point and we encourage you to take advantage of them.
If you are struggling to cope, please read our guide on coping with grief after the loss of a spouse or partner.
Don’t forget that we offer grief help and support through the National Bereavement Service's online webchat. All you need to do is to click on the box at the bottom of this page.
Contributed by Mark Welkin
Mark Welkin is the author of three grief books and a journalist who has worked for various media outlets in Europe and Asia. He lost his long-term partner in 2014 and a few months later, Mark turned to a grief counsellor for help. The results inspired him to share his experience and help other bereaved people to resume life after the loss of their loved ones.