The Valentine’s Challenge

First published in February 2010.

Special days like anniversaries, birthdays, and major holidays bring a mixed blessing to those who have lost a spouse or significant other. They are, of course, a reminder of the loss and the sadness attached, but also a time to relish sweet and happy memories.

For many Valentine’s Day returns thoughts to pre-children/family romance and couple bonding. That’s what makes it different than those “other” memory stirring days. And it is a reminder for some that there’s not that special romantic connection at present.

Since I’ve not personally suffered the loss of a spouse, I’ve had to consult with those who have to explore ways of coping. I do have a few ideas of my own to share, but they are rooted in working with those who have lost a spouse and not personal experience. Here are a few ideas for helping get through the Valentine’s Day challenge.

  • Go to the dark place for awhile. I’m a believer that moving towards the pain is important for healing. Allow yourself to feel the sadness before moving on to some of the other things you might do. But do move on to other things.
  • If you are a “card keeper” take out those Valentine cards and read them. My mother did this when my dad died, and did so for another 20 years. It was a dark place to begin with, that she transformed into precious memories that she shared with me and my brother.
  • Spend some time with a best friend – lunch, or dinner perhaps. Swap funny stories about your early couple days. Laugh a little, cry a little.
  • Pamper yourself with the gift of a massage, manicure or pedicure. Treat yourself gently.
  • Talk with your children and let them in on the romantic side of your life before they were born. That’s something very few children know about their parents. It gives them another way to connect with you, as well as the person they lost. They may learn something important about commitment, too.
  • Gift yourself flowers. Orchids are not only beautiful flowers, but they last often for months. Give yourself one, or drop a hint to a family member or an older child if they need a “suggestion” for a gift.

Remember the rule, “If you want something, ask for it.” Friends and family are usually only too happy to respond. Learning to do that is a gift that keeps on giving. Not only do you receive what you want or need, but others have the opportunity to demonstrate their love and care. People are afraid of doing the wrong things when someone close to them has lost a loved one. You can help guide them by saying what you need.

Most importantly, take care of yourself. Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel.

Happy Valentines Day with love, from Hello Grief.

Please continue the conversation: If you have a tradition that has helped you survive the Valentine’s Day challenge in the past, please share by commenting below. Your idea may help another in the same situation.

Photo Credit.


  1. Rachel said on February 10, 2010 at 12:48 pm ... #

    I once heard the suggestion to give flowers to someone else in your life to commemorate you’re loved one’s birthday, anniversary, mother’s/father’s day, etc. I like this idea and started doing this myself. It’s great to see the joy that random flowers bring to your other loved ones. Sometimes I tell them why, and sometimes I don’t. I know my mom would have loved this idea.

  2. Alisha said on February 10, 2010 at 12:57 pm ... #

    My mom died on February 13, 2007. At first, Valentine’s day felt like a trick to me: “Your mom just died – celebrate love and happiness!” It took me a few years to realize what a gift it is to have those days back to back. My mom celebrated love every day of her life, so just the act of celebrating love so close to the date of her death is a great gift I can give back to her.

  3. Bill said on February 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm ... #

    Good for you! You turned something difficult into something special.

  4. ANGELA ZYLKA said on February 18, 2010 at 3:07 am ... #

    My husband died suddenly & unexpectedly 6 years ago
    or 6 Valentines ago!
    I was so lucky to be a part of the 1st Adult Camp
    at CZC last May!
    The most important thing I learned from Lynne & staff, was that every time you tell your story or hear a friend’s story …you heal a little.This has been true for me & my children.
    I thank you for starting Hello Grief. This is another way we can reach out & tell our story to people,”Who Get It”! Thank you!

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