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Grief and Valentine’s Day

HOLIDAYS AND SPECIAL DAYS / HOLIDAYS AND SPECIAL DAYS : ELEANOR HALEY


 

I don’t want to alarm you, but I just had a look at the calendar, and it’s almost Valentine’s Day. I know some of you were planning to skip from February 13 straight to February 15, but I can’t let you do that because then you’d be living a day ahead of everyone, and you’d miss all your appointments and favorite TV.

Valentine’s day is one of those “I appreciate you” holidays, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. As such, there’s a whole faction of people who would prefer to ignore the holiday altogether…you know…because the person they’re supposed to appreciate is dead.

I won’t go into all the reasons why grief and Valentine’s Day don’t mix well; if the day is hard for you, you already have an idea why. What I thought we could do is discuss a few options for making it through the day.

1. Take the day to be completely miserable. It’s okay to be unhappy, and this is one day when you’re not alone in your misery — a lot of people hate Valentine’s Day!

2. Ignore the day altogether. Ignore the obnoxious jewelry commercials. Ignore the cards, ignore the chocolates, ignore the girl sitting next to you at the doctor’s office chatting on her cell phone about her romantic plans. Actually…you know what? Just stay home…stay home and don’t turn on the TV.

I can sense you’re beginning to lose confidence in my suggestions. It’s not realistic to pretend the day doesn’t exist, and you don’t really want to spend the day feeling miserable. So let me offer one more suggestion.

3. Reframe how you think about the day.

Typically when we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of romance. That’s why the day is stereotypically hard on people who don’t have a “date.” But look deeper, and you see at the heart of the day is ‘love’ (pun wholly intended). Valentine’s day ought to be about giving and receiving love of ALL kinds.

I can hear some of your starting to groan. Stop that; it’s not as cheesy as it sounds, and you can embrace Valentine’s Day in all sorts of ways, big and small.


Friend and Family Love:

Big Steps

  • Invite a group of people over for a casual get together or dinner party. 
  • Plan a night out with others who have experienced the same loss. Acknowledge the day is hard, but make it your goal to have fun and laugh. Go to the movies and see a comedy, have a game night, bowl, go to a comedy club, sing karaoke. 
  • Allow your children to pick an activity. Let them dream as big as your budget will allow. Grieving children need opportunities to have good, healthy fun, and seeing them smile will warm your heart a bit. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge that being together as a family highlights who is missing and take every chance you get to remember and talk about your loved one, even if it’s just to say, “Dad would have loved this.”

Small Steps

  • Let someone close to you know you are feeling down but don’t want to be alone. Invite them over for a quiet night in. 
  • Have a movie night with your kids. Choose to watch feel-good movies like comedies, animation, or cheesy old classics. Order pizza and put on your PJs.
  • Send a card or flowers to a friend or family member who you know is also feeling down on Valentine’s Day. Perhaps they are grieving the same loss you are, or they have experienced some other hardship. Let them know they are not alone.

Stranger Love:

Big Steps

  • Volunteering your time with an organization or charity is an excellent way to interact and connect with people while also helping others. Consider choosing an organization your loved one would have supported and tell yourself you’re doing it in his/her honor. 
  • Attend or join a group of any kind. I’m leaving this broad for a reason. Support groups are an excellent way to receive and give support, but there is also benefit in joining any group that gathers around something you like. Camera clubs, choirs, prayer groups, widow/widower happy hours, you name it; they all allow for the benefit of human interaction and recreation. 
  • Set out to do 5 acts of kindness throughout the day. Big or small, they will put more love into the world and will have the added consequence of letting you feel good about yourself.

Small Steps

  • Write a letter. Write to anyone. Write to an organization or professional you think is doing a good job. Write to an individual you know who is struggling. Write to a child or adolescent you want to encourage. Write to your deceased loved one. 
  • Make a monetary donation. Make it in honor of your loved one for the amount you might have spent on dinner and a movie.
  • Set out to do 1 act of kindness during the day. 

Love for Yourself:

All Kind of Steps

  • Recognize your limitations. Don’t push yourself into an activity you’re not up to.
  • Treat yourself. Taking budget into consideration, take yourself out for a day of relaxation – whatever that means to you. It may be a spa treatment, retail therapy, or a monster truck rally; as long as it relieves stress or makes you smile, anything goes.
  • Deliberately set aside time to engage in any activity that helps you cope with grief – exercise, yoga, journaling, art, etc.
  • Allow yourself to be really present with your loved one’s memory and allow yourself to cry for as long as you like. We all have our rituals and reminders that make us feel close to deceased loved ones, go ahead and engage in them.
  • Believe that next year will be a little bit easier. 

Talking about how to deal with tough days is a common thread on What’s Your Grief. Subscribe to receive updates about blog posts. 
https://whatsyourgrief.com/grief-and-valentines-day-2014/?inf_contact_key=51fb42602e3d44a46a418d627d666fa2680f8914173f9191b1c0223e68310bb1 

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This is a link from Marty’s article if you want to light a candle for someone.  You can leave your thoughts there too.  Lasts for 48 hours and to see the candle burn down.  Can always light another for anyone.  It’s very cool.  We never did anything for Valentine’s, but his was helpful.  This takes you to the one I lit but you select back to candles and you can light your own.

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Not really sure why I am posting other than to vent.  I am 50 years old and have now lost two wives to disease.   Both of whom I loved dearly.  This is the one month anniversary of Ana’s passing due to cancer - very unexpected and a very difficult 7 month battle.  I miss her tremendously.   Today is a tough tough day.  Thank God for our wonderful kids who keep me focused and moving forward.  Miss you Ana.  

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@BrianL  I am so sorry for your loss.  So unfair!  Cancer is such an insidious disease, it took my companion dog 1 1/2 years ago, although it was heart/diabetes that took my husband nearly 16 years ago.   My BIL of 50 years, more like a brother, passed suddenly from cancer in September, my sister is disabled and he took complete care of her.

I am glad you have your kids.  Having support around you makes all the difference.  I'm one who is growing old alone, my kids don't live nearby and are busy with their own lives although they were around more in the early years (my son was in the Air Force back then).

I hope you will continue to come here and read/post.  I know this is a hard day for us, but for you especially, being so new in this and with this being the one month anv of her passing, super hard.  :(

I want to share an article I wrote of the things I've found helpful over the years, in the hopes something will be of help to you either now or on down the road.

TIPS TO MAKE YOUR WAY THROUGH GRIEF

There's no way to sum up how to go on in a simple easy answer, but I encourage you to read the other threads here, little by little you will learn how to make your way through this.  I do want to give you some pointers though, of some things I've learned on my journey.

  • Take one day at a time.  The Bible says each day has enough trouble of it's own, I've found that to be true, so don't bite off more than you can chew.  It can be challenging enough just to tackle today.  I tell myself, I only have to get through today.  Then I get up tomorrow and do it all over again.  To think about the "rest of my life" invites anxiety.
  • Don't be afraid, grief may not end but it evolves.  The intensity lessens eventually.
  • Visit your doctor.  Tell them about your loss, any troubles sleeping, suicidal thoughts, anxiety attacks.  They need to know these things in order to help you through it...this is all part of grief.
  • Suicidal thoughts are common in early grief.  If they're reoccurring, call a suicide hotline.  I felt that way early on, but then realized it wasn't that I wanted to die so much as I didn't want to go through what I'd have to face if I lived.  Back to taking a day at a time.  Suicide Hotline - Call 1-800-273-8255 or www.crisis textline.org or US and Canada: text 741741 UK: text 85258 | Ireland: text 50808
  • Give yourself permission to smile.  It is not our grief that binds us to them, but our love, and that continues still.
  • Try not to isolate too much.  
  • There's a balance to reach between taking time to process our grief, and avoiding it...it's good to find that balance for yourself.  We can't keep so busy as to avoid our grief, it has a way of haunting us, finding us, and demanding we pay attention to it!  Some people set aside time every day to grieve.  I didn't have to, it searched and found me!
  • Self-care is extremely important, more so than ever.  That person that would have cared for you is gone, now you're it...learn to be your own best friend, your own advocate, practice self-care.  You'll need it more than ever.
  • Recognize that your doctor isn't trained in grief, find a professional grief counselor that is.  We need help finding ourselves through this maze of grief, knowing where to start, etc.  They have not only the knowledge, but the resources.
  • In time, consider a grief support group.  If your friends have not been through it themselves, they may not understand what you're going through, it helps to find someone somewhere who DOES "get it". 
  • Be patient, give yourself time.  There's no hurry or timetable about cleaning out belongings, etc.  They can wait, you can take a year, ten years, or never deal with it.  It's okay, it's what YOU are comfortable with that matters.  
  • Know that what we are comfortable with may change from time to time.  That first couple of years I put his pictures up, took them down, up, down, depending on whether it made me feel better or worse.  Finally, they were up to stay.
  • Consider a pet.  Not everyone is a pet fan, but I've found that my dog helps immensely.  It's someone to love, someone to come home to, someone happy to see me, someone that gives me a purpose...I have to come home and feed him.  Besides, they're known to relieve stress.  Well maybe not in the puppy stage when they're chewing up everything, but there's older ones to adopt if you don't relish that stage.
  • Make yourself get out now and then.  You may not feel interest in anything, things that interested you before seem to feel flat now.  That's normal.  Push yourself out of your comfort zone just a wee bit now and then.  Eating out alone, going to a movie alone or church alone, all of these things are hard to do at first.  You may feel you flunked at it, cried throughout, that's okay, you did it, you tried, and eventually you get a little better at it.  If I waited until I had someone to do things with I'd be stuck at home a lot.
  • Keep coming here.  We've been through it and we're all going through this together.
  • Look for joy in every day.  It will be hard to find at first, but in practicing this, it will change your focus so you can embrace what IS rather than merely focusing on what ISN'T.  It teaches you to live in the present and appreciate fully.  You have lost your big joy in life, and all other small joys may seem insignificant in comparison, but rather than compare what used to be to what is, learn the ability to appreciate each and every small thing that comes your way...a rainbow, a phone call from a friend, unexpected money, a stranger smiling at you, whatever the small joy, embrace it.  It's an art that takes practice and is life changing if you continue it.
  • Eventually consider volunteering.  It helps us when we're outward focused, it's a win/win.

(((hugs))) Praying for you today.

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3 hours ago, BrianL said:

Not really sure why I am posting other than to vent.

BrianL:  I am sorry your need to vent but it is so understandable to all of us here.  We all know how painful it is when we lose our spouse/partner.  I hope you will continue to come to this forum to vent, or to share your grief.  I, too, am glad to see you have family around you to help you along this grief pathway.  Take care.  Dee 

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I am sorry Brian. I lost my wife almost 9 months ago, but it feels like it's been years ago. 

I don't know why I feel so lonely and miserable on this stupid day. It didn't mean anything to Annette- she didn't need a certain day to remind her of our love- it was every day. Yet somehow this day I feel more lost and alone then ever, and truly feel nobody cares. Actually, my Mom was kind enough to mute the sound when the early news had a story about last minute holiday shoppers. At least that's something. 

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That exhilarating love is still alive and well.  Getting out in our record breaking snow to Safeway for a couple things including sanity from isolation, I saw lots of people with roses, candy, wine and balloons.  It was bittersweet.  I couldn’t hate it, I remember how good it felt to be in active love and having that fill your heart.  The things bought were symbols of what I/we all had.  There’d be none of those things between Steve and I, but sad the love is but memories now.  And as I said in another post, didn’t pick up at least something small to treat us, even if it were an individual bag of M&M's.  I thought about it, but without him to share, it was pointless.  Lots of cozy couples tonight.  Wish we all were one of them.

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At this point of my journey I didn't expect to feel resentful. A day later and I still see on my social network feeds the pictures of friends with their partners and beautiful comments below. And me feeling that mine is dead and they are all alive and happy. 

It hurts and there's nowhere to run and hide.

I guess the word "evolved" isn't attached to my name.

 

 

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2 hours ago, scba said:

I guess the word "evolved" isn't attached to my name.

Ana, I hope my response (below) to this is taken as a re-frame of your comment, and not as anything like trivializing your feelings of pain around what you see on your social networks.  I had my own 🙄experience with it this Valentine's Day. 

I wanted to say in response that we can be "evolved" in various ways and still have our moments of less-than-evolved feelings or thoughts.  I catch myself doing it all the time.  It's part of what makes us human, I think.  Just the other day, I was working with someone who talks a lot about spiritual evolution and who teaches yoga and is a vegan.  In short, someone we would probably assume is fairly well along in thought, word and action, right?  Well! They flew into a rage over a very trivial matter, and engaged in all-too-human and very regressive behavior that I won't describe.  It was not a good look. This person was then flabbergasted by their own actions once they cooled down.  It was an interesting moment, one that your comment brought to mind.

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14 hours ago, Kieron said:

grumpy valentine.jpg

This says it all!  I love it!  Saving it...

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49 minutes ago, Kieron said:

This person was then flabbergasted by their own actions once they cooled down.

Something any of us are capable of on any given moment if the stress/circumstances are just right.  We like to think not, but sometimes something catches us.  All we can do is apologize, which isn't an undo button, unfortunately.  it leaves the other feeling guarded and wary, with good reason.  So important to think before we speak/do, as words are not easily retrieved.

At my ladies group two of them ganged up on me over politics, weren't hearing what I said, they assumed a lot that they didn't know and WAY overreacted!  They had gone off about Biden undoing everything Trump did (NOT starting a discussion about this, please!) and I merely said, "That always happens when the white house changes parties.  It did with the last two administrations as well." They went off on me VERY ANGRILY for an hour!  I'm not desiring more of the same.  One "apologized" to me since but I don't feel it was heartfelt as she said what SHE wanted to say but would not let ME say anything!  I did slip in that it was a personal attack that was disrespectful.  I do not want more of the same, I need to give some prayer and thought and time before I decide I want to try going again.  None of the others said anything, just sat there, although one talked to me later and said she had felt the same as me.  These people do NOT know my political views or how I voted.  It was just way over the top.

So what do you do when someone is not in a good place and just goes off on you out of nowhere?  I try to give them some grace, but then again, sometimes you extend it and they don't learn from it and continue to abuse you.  My sister is going through that right now with a so called friend who isn't.  It breaks my heart to see it.  That person also wants her say but won't let Peggy say her view, and it's personal attacks on my sister's character, which is impeccable!  I think her "friend" is off her rocker!

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Fortunately I haven’t had anyone I personally know go off on me lately but I’ve sure seen the type and examples on the news.  Had it happen in a parking lot I posted about with some guys blocking the handicap spaces with their motorcycles.  I did what I always have.  Retained a calm voice try to de escalate it and when that didn’t work, walk away.  I typically do not engage the person again.  If they come to me and are reasonable, I’ll listen.  

Politics is a hot button for obvious reasons this time around and add in the pandemic stress and it’s a constantly ticking time bomb.  It’s scary people have reached these points.  Scarier that people can be armed and harm someone over something like an opinion.  Or belief.  

I find without Steve I am much more tense in the world.  Even if he wasn’t with me at times I was harassed, I knew I could come home to his arms.  Or admonishment for engaging with irrational people, because he cared.  I don’t feel as safe anymore.  No one will ever care about me like that again.  Everyone that has is gone from my life.  It’s a part of living I never experienced. I’ve had over 6 years and still am unsettled in myself.  I don’t feel like I fit in anymore after a year of being cut off from at least volunteering.  I just don’t fit anywhere.  Just my house and that is drastically changed too.  I didn’t mind seeing all my doctors before, but now that things have gotten so complicated I’m grateful for telemedicine.  I’ve spent too much time in rooms with that medical smell.  Plus all the masking just makes the isolated feeling worse.  The couple of women I met thru the community center are nice, but they won’t (that I can see) become deep relationships.  My former ones that still are there can’t be rekindled from them distancing in their busy lives.  I was always busy too and I’m seeing it was having a foundation that made that happen.  Without that I’m  adrift.  Had time away from Steve, but it was the knowledge I had someone like everyone else.  I talked in 'we's often.  He did too, often passing on after work invites because he wanted to come home.  Or calling to let me know he’d be late, which I never required him to do.  They were examples of how we said I love you in differed words.  

So I sit here another afternoon waiting on a repairman.  Steve’s not here so I can do something else.  Hell, he’s not here for anything.   Will never get used to this.  

This was about irate people.  Guess I’m just quietly irate.

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Thanks Kieron for your comment and I understand what you mean.

All I can say, and I posted it here many times, that our grief for loosing our soulmates means also to learn to live with its and our contradictions. Our landscape is forever changed and they will keep emerging. "Get used to them". 

 

 

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Btw, I practice yoga but for some reason I'm not a Yogui in mind. If only it's the way my body found to call for my attention. When I stop practising for weeks, my body starts aching a lot. It sooths the body and surely the breathing helps. I highly recommend it. There's a branch named yoga for Grief. I wish I could have practised that with a certified trainer. Perhaps I could get that and help young people like me who was asked to do some excersise but the physical and psycologycal pain was too much for standing  Zumba, pilates or aerobics. 

 

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Gwen, I thought you handled the motorcycles issue very well, you are NOT a hotheaded person.  It was the same with me & the lady in the grocery store a while back that went off on me.  I can take those but not from a "friend" you invite into your life.  I do not consider such a one a friend or trust them anymore.  If they were having a bad day I could understand especially if they apologized (heartfelt) and you talked it out later.  That I could get over.

I am afraid I wouldn't be able to do yoga, too many falls and pains.  ;)  But it does sound like a good practice.  

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Definitely makes a difference if a confrontation happens with someone you know.  I’ve lost a few people from those.  I can see taking a couple days break, but it has to be addressed to keep the relationship alive.  They always hurt because the message I take from it is I just don’t matter as much as I thought to the person.  I’m calm wether it be stranger or friend.  Hardly a threat from being uncooperative.  You are right, lose trust and it’s over or never the same.  Having to withhold part of yourself for that reason truly moves it down the ladder for how much more you will invest.

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