Handling Grief on Valentine’s Day
Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote, "I hold it true, whatever befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; 'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." I imagine this statement is contemplated by many during this time of the year, especially when you have lost a loved one. Whether it was a romantic partner, family member or friend, we feel it most in sorrow. When we struggle with words to express our emotions, the great poets provide a wealth of written works to help us. E. E. Cummings very eloquently conveys the idea of continued bonds with his dear one in his poem "I Carry Your Heart with Me (I Carry It in My Heart)":
I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart). I am never without it. (Anywhere I go, you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling.)
I fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet). I want no world (for, beautiful, you are my world, my true), and you are whatever a moon has always meant, and whatever a sun will always sing is you.
Here is the deepest secret nobody knows. (Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life, which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide.) This is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart.
I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart).
You carry your loved one's heart with you wherever you go, within your own heart. Celebrate that love, for it was truly better to have had their loving presence for a short while than to have never had it at all.
Below are several things that you can do to help yourself cope with Valentine's Day:
- Give yourself permission to experience your grief. Acknowledge that this Valentine's Day will not be the same without your significant other. Allow yourself to feel whatever may come up that day: sadness, longing for the person who died, and joy for having been a part of that loving relationship. It's all a part of good grieving.
- Honor your significant other and the relationship. Death doesn't mean an end to the love you shared, just an end to the way you expressed it. Gather with those to whom you feel close and share aloud some of the special qualities of your loved one or your relationship. Or, establish some private rituals as a way to keep that special connectedness for years to come. Some examples:
- Visit the cemetery and place a single rose—or something else that symbolizes your love—on your loved one's grave. Talk aloud, relaying how you've been feeling since their death. It can be cathartic.
- Start an annual Valentine's Day journal. In your first entry, explain to your loved one why you need to do this. Write down everything you wish you had the chance to say before he or she died. Date each entry as a way of charting your healing over time.
- Write a letter or a poem to your loved one. Go outside, tie the written piece to an eco-friendly, helium-filled balloon, and release it heavenward.
- Light a candle near a photo of your loved one. Just sit near it for a while. Reminisce. Laugh. Cry.
- Honor your relationships with those who are still alive. Valentine's Day is not just for couples. It also provides an opportunity to let others know how special they are. Make time to look up from your pain and realize how many other people love and care for you. Find ways to tell them, "I love you," or, "You are special to me." For example, send children's valentines to adult family members and friends, writing personal notes on each. The cards will remind you both of a simpler, whimsical time in life.
- Love yourself. Find a way to be appreciative of yourself and the love and effort you put into your relationship. Make a list of the five qualities your significant other loved most about you. Or, make a list of positive, loving things your significant other would have said to you this Valentine's Day and read them aloud to yourself. Buy yourself a present that you think he or she would give you, such as jewelry or a CD by your favorite artist; think about him or her each time you wear or use it.
- Pamper yourself. Treat yourself with feel-good things. Buy yourself some flowers. Get a massage or spa treatment. Play your favorite music loudly. Dance wildly. Take a relaxing bubble bath, maybe throw in some flower petals. Wear your slippers all day. Watch TV with a bowl of popcorn.
- Spend some cuddle time with an animal companion. If you don't have one, visit a friend who does. The unconditional love will do wonders. If an actual pet is not available, do the same with a big stuffed animal.
- Do something heartfelt for someone else. Make a point of keeping your heart open on this day. Volunteer somewhere. Visit an elderly relative. Take cookies to work. Give blood.
- Redefine the purpose of the holiday. Don't think of it as a day for lovers, but as a day to openly express your love to those important in your life. Keep the day's focus on romance in perspective, too. Don't let all the hoopla force you into thinking about starting a new romantic relationship. It's not a decision to be made lightly. Only you will know when the time is right to open your heart again.
- Seek support if you feel overwhelmed. Your grief is your own, but you do not have to go through it alone or pretend you're okay. Reach out and continue to build a support system. Talk with someone who understands and is willing to listen to you without judgment. That may include family members, friends, your faith community, or bereavement professionals.
—Stacie Adams, Bereavement Coordinator (Mount Airy office)
Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care offers free grief support to the community at large. For more information, contact us today at 336-789-2922 (toll-free 1-888-789-2922).
Tags: Grief Support