Grieving through Valentine’s Day

Cards, chocolates, flowers, and Facebook posts about love - the lead up to Valentine’s Day can be treacherous for just about anyone, and especially so for those who are grieving. Underneath the glitter of Hallmark cards and the crinkle of boxed chocolate wrappers, what is Valentine’s Day really about? For many, it’s a day to expressly communicate the love and appreciation they feel for spouses and partners, family members, friends, and even pets. When you’re grieving the death of someone you love, Valentine’s Day might leave you feeling heartsick, angry, and confused about what to do. Maybe you decide to boycott the day. Maybe you have a tradition you want to uphold. Maybe you toss aside all that you have done in the past and forge ahead with new ways to celebrate. Regardless of what you decide to do (or not do) for Valentine’s Day, it’s most important to clarify what feels right and nourishing for you.

If you have children who are grieving, talk with them in advance about the day. Each person in your family might need and want something different, so it’s helpful to start from a place of knowing what you want to do. Come prepared to that conversation with ideas for what you would like to do and stay open to your children’s suggestions. They might surprise you with something you never thought of! Many grieving children worry that the traditions of receiving and giving gifts and cards no longer apply to them, so include those traditions in your conversation. Also, help children think through assignments at school that are specific to Valentine’s Day. Will they be invited by their teacher to make a card? If so, discuss how they want to handle that situation and others that might arise.

If you decide not to scrap celebrating on the day entirely, here are a few options to consider:

  • Decide which traditions you and/or your children want to uphold and then figure out who will be responsible for what.
  • Connect with others you find to be supportive - this might look like setting up a phone call, email chat, or getting together for dinner.
  • Schedule some self-care that feels replenishing: go for a hike, check out a new movie, take a yoga class, meet up with friends, journal, or cook a nourishing meal.
  • Volunteer for an organization or event that is meaningful to you.
  • Send cards, flowers, or an email to friends and family who might also be going through a hard time.
  • If it feels right, create a ritual or activity connected to the person who died. (Make a meal they enjoyed, go to their favorite restaurant, make or buy a card for them).
  • Write a card or letter to the person who died. You might write about: events you want them to know about (your son’s first soccer game, a promotion at work, a description of the sunrise you recently saw…etc.), things you are grateful to them for, ways in which you and your family have grown or changed, or anything that comes to mind. You can keep, bury, or burn what you write.

No matter what you choose to do or not do, go easy on yourself. There can be so much pressure, both internal and external, to think or feel a certain way. Know that it’s okay to feel whatever you feel (sadness, anger, numbness, irritation…etc.), leading up to and on the actual day.