In February it is difficult to get away from the focus on couples. The best locations belong to romantic tables for two in expensive restaurants. Pampered pairs receive exceptional service. Whispers volley back and forth.
Leftover Christmas wrapping paper and holiday cards are back in storage and a flood of red foil boxes of candy stock the shelves. A sea of heart-smothered greeting cards demand Be Mine!
Flower shops gear up for one of their busiest holidays with an abundance of red roses and leather leaf ferns. The shops line up extra drivers so even the most forgetful mate can get a final hour floral delivery and dodge a week of silent treatment.
Love whispers surround us as we prepare for the holiday devoted to romance—Valentine’s Day.
But if you have been uncoupled, this day can be as offensive as a mink coat at a PETA rally. It is difficult to walk past those sappy displays and not feel a swelling lump in your throat pulsating to the rhythm of your heavy heart. It is practically impossible to hold back sentimental flashbacks.
I vividly remember the last Valentine card I bought my late husband David. Purchased in Lancaster, I delivered it to the Neuro-Intensive Care Unit at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Four days earlier, David was in a car accident. The crash left him a quadriplegic. Due to his limitations, I opened his Valentine. I taped it to the cold metal bar above his bed with thick white adhesive tape. A clear feeding tube lurked next to my card and the glittery pop-up heart inside struggled to come out. Menacing coils of thin plastic, originating from noisy machines, crowded the letters on the cardboard. I desperately wanted him to see my love message whenever his eyes were open. Voiceless, he blinked with approval. All he could move were the muscles of his face, but he generously flashed me a smile.
I am still figuring out my grief journey. It is a curious companion that pokes its head out from time to time to remind me of its presence. I have made some observations over the years. I would like to share them with you as you may be seeking the clarity that I do:
Love is risky.
Loss is forever but time softens the edges.
Death is a unity factor—we all die.
Grief is the deep sensation of sadness caused by death.
“Mourning is love with no place to go.” (Anonymous)
I can’t make Valentine’s Day disappear from the calendar for you, but as I promised at the beginning of this four-part series, I can share some Tips to help you manage the day. They are tried and true pieces of advice that I have collected over the past twenty-two years.
(February 24th will mark the beginning of my new cycle of loss.)
- Treat yourself to something special this month. Some expensive candy. A new pair of shoes. A tube of bright new lipstick. (One year I bought all three!)
- Love yourself on Valentine’s Day.
- Make time for a moment to recall the good memories and release some of the residual tears from your grief corner.
- Know that Valentine’s Day is only one day, and that on February 15th this holiday will be over.
- Avoid television Hallmark Valentine specials, unless you need a good cry.
- Go outside if you can and soak up some sunshine. Vitamin D elevates your mood.
- Trust your own judgment. Don’t let someone talk you into going out to a couple’s gathering by telling you that it will be “good for you”. Chances are that it will end up badly. You know yourself best. Surround yourself instead with like-minded family and friends.
- If you have children at home, bake cupcakes and put candy hearts on top and tell your kids how much you love them.
- Eat chocolate.
- Listen for Cupid’s whispers and try and make sense of your personal message.
I hope you still can believe in love and its magical power. I hope you can regain your traction and move forward with a feeling of hope. I hope this message has helped.
With love to all as you go forth,
“You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms
too full to embrace the present.” (Jan Glidwell)