Congratulations—you’ve made it through the holidays. The mistletoe is gone and you’ve navigated creating new traditions, continuing old ones, and/or taking a break from the holidays altogether. For those whose spouses died, however, the Valentine’s Day candy and advertisements that pop up even before you’ve taken down the Christmas tree offers a stark reminder that there are more tough days around the corner.
Valentine’s Day can be a rough milestone for widows because it’s a day that people celebrate with a romantic partner. Spending Valentine’s Day alone is a painful reminder of not only your partner’s absence but also how different it feels to be a single person in a world that seems to be made for two.
Whether you’re facing your first or fifth Valentine’s Day alone—or even if you have a new partner and won’t be alone at all—the day can bring unique challenges. Here are some thoughts on getting through and perhaps even enjoying this lovers’ holiday even if your partner is gone.
It’s Only a Day
For the widowed, the best thing about Valentine’s Day is its brevity. Unlike the Christmas season, there’s no drawn-out holiday parties or other events that take over an entire month. One day is avoidable. If it’s too painful, you can take time off work and shut the world out for a day. Even if you don’t need that level of distraction, handling a wave of grief that crashes over February 14th may be easier than the tsunami that engulfed most of December.
If enjoying Valentine’s Day isn’t in the cards this year, don’t despair. Next year you might be in a different frame of mind and be able to consider new ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day.
Connect With Other Widows
The experience of widowhood is often a mixture of longing specifically for your spouse and struggling with more generalized loneliness. It might feel like you’re the only one without Valentine’s Day date, but there are plenty of people, including other widows, dreading spending the evening alone. Valentine’s Day is a great time to schedule an event with other widows you know. Not only will you be able to spend the evening with other people who “get it,” but no one will be alone.
Whether you’re spending the day alone or looking for other widows or single friends to connect with, Valentine’s Day is a good reminder to take care of yourself. If there’s a special gift or ritual that your spouse did for you, see if you can recreate it on your own. Take time to do something for yourself or just take some time to breathe. Not only will it make Valentine’s Day more tolerable, but you’ll also likely wake up on the 15th feeling a bit better than before.
Every widow experiences Valentine’s Day differently. Some widows barely notice it, others are anguished at the sight of couples enjoying candlelit dinners. There’s no right or wrong way to think about Valentine’s Day, and as long as you’re not hurting yourself or others, there’s no wrong way to get through it.
Both individual counseling and professionally-run support groups can be helpful as you navigate milestones and holidays without your spouse. Other widows can give you ideas about how to manage as a widowed person in a world of couples, while individual counseling can give you a safe space to examine and move through your grief.