Johnathan Thomas, MBA, PhD, D.DIV
When someone we love dies, days on the calendar take on a new meaning. Days that once were full of joyful anticipation can now be a cause for dread and fear. Knowing that we can no longer celebrate special days without our loved ones has changed every holiday and other special days. Some of these days like Christmas, Thanksgiving or birthdays are clearly going to be triggers, and the anticipation of them allows us and others to prepare a bit for them. Other holidays may take us by surprise. Maybe they were not significant when our loved ones were alive, so we do not initially associate the holiday to the pain of missing them that we are now feeling.
Valentine’s Day can be one of these days. The pain of the holiday is clear to those who have lost a spouse. Most often thought of as a romantic holiday for spouses and couples, this holiday can be very painful for people missing others as well.
We begin celebrating Valentine’s Day as children when we struggle to put our names to our classmate’s valentines. The day is filled with heart shaped candy, class parties and homemade valentines for our parents. It is a day to celebrate love, and as a society we have embraced the day to celebrate the love we feel for our parents, children, spouses, grandparents, siblings, and other family and friends. The day can bring up the pangs of grief because someone we love is now missing from this celebration.
With the death of our loved one, some control has been stripped from our lives. What we thought would be forever is suddenly taken from us. Just the same as we do not have control over the days that come along every year, we wish there were a way for them to just disappear– to have “special” days that cause pain, to just forever be taken from the calendar.
Unfortunately, time moves forward without our permission and these days will come every year. We are left to decide how to make them bearable. This will be different for each day, but Valentine’s Day invites us to remember the love. We can decide to focus on the memories. We can decide to focus on the love.
The goal is not to take away the pain or to make everything okay, rather to allow us to share the love that always and will forever be there.
Some things that you can do on Valentine’s Day to share that love:
- Light a candle in honor of your loved one.
- Bring Valentine’s Day cards to people who may not get any.
- Write a love letter to them and read it aloud and share it with the universe.
- Make a donation in their name to a homeless shelter or donate a book in their name to a library.
- Plant a tree or a plant in their memory and place a memorial plaque beside it.
- Post their picture on Social Media and ask others to share their memories or photos with you.
- Go shopping for a Valentine’s card and look for the perfect one—the one that they would have purchased for you and buy it as a gift for you from them.
- Go to a favorite place and spend time with your memories.
- Make their favorite meal and invite others to come share in love and memories.
These are just a few ideas. Open your mind and your heart. Do what feels right to you. Try one thing, if it does not work for you then try something else.
Valentine’s Day is different, but it is still Valentine’s Day. Our loved ones are forever a part of us. They have changed us forever and their love lives on in us. This Valentine’s Day allow space for the joy of their memories and the power of their love to share space with the pain of them not being with you.
Happy Valentine’s Day, LOVE NEVER DIES IT JUST CHANGES FORM!