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February is a month that is heavy on emotion. Even though it’s a quick month, Valentine’s Day tends to overshadow the rest of it, because it seems like it’s everywhere. It’s on TV, in movies, plastered over social media, and even in the news. For many people, Valentine’s Day can be a mixed bag. A day (or, let’s face it, a month) spent celebrating romantic love can be overwhelming for folks who are single or in relationships, but there is an added layer of emotion for people who are grieving a loss.
Any holiday can be a tricky event after a loss, but Valentine’s Day can be extremely difficult for the surviving partner (or partners). While people who are grieving feel their grief every day, holidays can trigger a flood of emotions and memories that can be devastating in ways that ordinary days do not. At Grief Recovery Center in Houston, we understand that grief is different for everyone, and that what works for one person might not work for you.
If you are grieving this February, know that you’re not alone.
Why do people feel grief on Valentine’s Day?
There are lots of reasons why people feel grief on Valentine’s Day. Some people are grieving over the fact that they aren’t in a romantic relationship. Others are grieving someone they loved and lost on this day.
Holidays tend to feel even more painful in the first few months after a loss, so folks who are grieving a recent loss may find the celebratory mood overwhelming. Another reason why people feel grief on Valentine’s Day is because their relationships aren’t meeting their expectations or aren’t working.
Finally, memories of past years can add to feelings of grief on February 14th. The old feelings and memories can come flooding back and leave you feeling like you’ve lost your footing around this time of year.
It’s normal to have complicated emotions around major holidays and events. If you’re experiencing grief on Valentine’s Day, here are some things you can do about it:
1) Celebrate other types of love
Yes, Valentine’s Day is typically a celebration of romantic love (whatever that means to you), but it can also be an opportunity to show other people in your life some love. If you’re not up for seeing anyone you’re close to on the 14th, you may want to use this as a chance to show love for your community through volunteer work or even just by doing something nice for a random stranger.
Who do you know that could use a little extra compassion and understanding today? Is there anyone else you know who is also struggling with this day? Sometimes being validated by someone who gets what you’re going through is the best gift you can get. In addition to being compassionate with others, being kind to yourself is always a good choice. Try a meditation for self-compassion if you’re having a hard time tuning into being kind to yourself.
Focusing your energy into non-romantic love can be a way to give your emotions an outlet without spending the day dwelling on your loss.
2) Start a new tradition
Part of the reason holidays can be so tough for those grieving a loss is because holidays are usually steeped in all sorts of traditions or rituals. If you used to spend Valentine’s Day with a partner who is no longer there, reminders of traditions you used to share together can be especially painful. You don’t have to force yourself to follow those traditions just in the name of the holiday – you can create new traditions for yourself. For example, if you used to always go out on a special date with your partner, you can switch things up and cook yourself your favorite meal or try a new cuisine you’ve been curious about. Here are some more ideas for new holiday rituals you can try!
Recommended Reading: 5 Ways to Deal With the Grief of New Beginnings
3) Let your feelings out
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to open up to someone else in your life, although if that works for you, that is a great option. One way to process your feelings about Valentine’s Day and your loss is to journal. You don’t have to put pressure on yourself to write anything perfect or profound, this is just for you. Write how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, happy or sad memories, or anything you want to let out. If talking works better for you, you can record a voice memo on your phone and say whatever you need to say. If journaling isn’t your thing, you can write a letter to your partner (or to yourself) and keep it somewhere you can refer to it for support if needed.
Recommended Reading: 32 Journal Prompts for Grieving and Loss
4) Find support
It can be helpful to share your story with others who understand where you’re coming from, whether that is a counselor, a support group, or another person grieving the person you lost. It can be easy to isolate yourself on holidays, but this may not be the best strategy to help you deal with your loss.
You can ask a doctor or counselor for a recommendation for a support group, or you could search online or on social media to find a group that fits your needs. Another option is to spend some time with other people who loved your partner. They will be feeling the loss too, and while your grief may not be the same, you can share memories and lean on one another. Remember, you are not alone in this process. You deserve support in your time of mourning.
5) Focus on self-care
Another way to support yourself through a tough day is to focus on taking care of yourself. Make sure to take care of your physical self along with your emotional self – eat balanced meals, stay hydrated, and move your body. Take a long, luxurious shower or bath. Read a favorite book, do a puzzle, practice a hobby, or even try something new. It doesn’t have to be social media worthy to be self-care, it just has to work for you.
6) Romance yourself
You don’t have to have a partner to be romantic on Valentine’s Day. You can be romantic with yourself. You can even spend time being sweet to a friend or loved one if you have some romantic energy you want to use up. To romance yourself, treat yourself like you’d treat your partner. If you were with someone today, how would you want them to treat you?
Maybe you’d want a gift and quality time together. Maybe you’d want some pampering, or a delicious meal. How can you give that to yourself? Maybe make a plan to get takeout from a restaurant you really like, or order something you’ve been wanting to try. Try booking yourself an appointment to get your hair or nails done, or look into getting a massage to help relax you on a stressful day. It’s not sad to romance yourself on Valentine’s Day – it’s just a lovely excuse to treat yourself really well.
7) Join a support group
Sometimes talking about your grief with people who know exactly how you feel is just what you need. When you join a support group, you give yourself an opportunity to be heard and validated by others who know what you’re going through. Support groups can help you feel less alone because you can feel and see the community of other people who know what you’re going through.
Support groups can seem intimidating, but you don’t have to jump in and become the most talkative person in the group. Even just being there can help you learn from and relate to the stories of the other group members. You don’t have to be super extroverted to benefit from support groups, like our grief support group which you can attend in person or virtually each week.
8) Make it a regular day
Remember valentine’s day is just one day and doesn’t have to be a big deal if you don’t want it to be. You don’t have to acknowledge or celebrate if you don’t want to. That goes for all holidays, by the way! You are allowed to decide to opt out if you want to, even if the people who care about you don’t understand. Valentine’s Day can just be a regular day if you’d like it to be. See what you can do to keep yourself busy so the day goes by faster if you want to. Try making plans to eat with a friend, visiting a local museum, calling a friend or relative to catch up, or something else that helps you pass the time in an entertaining way. This day won’t last forever, and then you’ll have a whole year before you have to deal with it again.
Are you looking for more support with grief this Valentine’s Day?
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