By: Sarah Reinhardt, LPC
Valentine’s Day is a holiday that often takes grievers by surprise. We are more apt to extensively plan for the larger holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Lesser celebrated holidays such as Valentine’s Day have a way of sneaking up on us, which can trigger a burst of grief emotions.
This list is meant to provide grieving hearts with ideas on how to take care of themselves while experiencing “grief-bursts” as well as honor the memory of their loved one(s).
1. Create a Valentine’s Day Tree
This can be done using a simple branch or by purchasing a small tree. Once you have your tree selected, cut out paper hearts and write favorite memories of your loved one on them. Then place the hearts on the tree.
2. Pamper Yourself
Whether it is an at-home spa day or actually visiting a spa (or hairdresser, nail technician, or esthetician) the power of taking care of yourself can be immense.
3. Give Yourself Permission
One of the most helpful ways to cope with grief during any holiday is by giving yourself permission to experience your emotions, thoughts, and memories. This includes giving yourself permission to say YES or NO to certain events, activities, and invitations.
4. Dinner Out
Take the time to treat yourself to a dinner at a restaurant that you have been meaning to try, a place that was your special person’s favorite spot, or a tried and true favorite of your own.
5. Dinner In
Make yourself dinner at home, using your loved one’s favorite dish as the inspiration. You could also try a new recipe and/or start a new traditional Valentine’s Day menu.
6. Pick and Play a Valentine’s Day Theme Song
Music can have a strong influence on our state of mind. It can be used to alter or deepen emotions. Select a song that you feel serves as an anthem for where you want to be in your life or in your grief process. Another option is to play a song that was special to you and your loved one or a song that represents that relationship for you.
7. Write a Love Note or Poem to Yourself
The focus of Valentine’s Day often turns to others. This is one way to acknowledge yourself and all that you do for you. Make a list of characteristics that you like about yourself. Write a thank you note, detailing what you appreciate about yourself. If you find this task difficult, ask the people who know you the best to share some of the things they love about you.
8. Write a Love Note or Poem to Your Loved One
Death does not end a relationship; it changes it. It is “okay” to write a note or poem to your loved one who has died. For those of you that lack poetic prowess, here is a template that you can alter and use for creative motivation.
Loved One Poem
5 adjectives to describe
Who loved ______________________________.
Who said _______________________________.
Who felt ________________________________.
Who always _____________________________.
Who dreamed of _________________________.
Who feared _____________________________.
Who longed for __________________________.
Who needed ____________________________.
Who gave ______________________________.
Who taught me __________________________.
Who will be missed because ________________.
Who is now _____________________________.
9. Host a Movie Night
Invite friends/family/co-workers (anyone you feel emotionally safe with) to have a movie night. You can give the night a theme – i.e. best romance movies of all time, cheesiest love movies of all time, movies that make you laugh out loud, movies that were ____’s favorite, movies from your favorite decade, etc. If you feel too vulnerable to watch movies with others, host a solo movie night.
10. Treat Yourself
There is an emphasis on flowers, chocolates, and stuffed teddy bears on Valentine’s Day. If these items have meaning to you, purchase them for yourself.
11. Send a Valentine to Your Support System
Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to show appreciation for the people who are most helpful to us during our grief process. Even if it’s a handmade classic with hearts pasted onto construction paper or a cardboard valentine from a school kid’s collection, the intention of connection is the same.
12. Tell the People in Your Life Why You Love Them
Death is one of life’s most profound losses. After a loss, grievers often contemplate other relationships. Take the time to acknowledge the presence of other people in your life by sending them a personalized message.
13. Create a Collage
Craft a collage or scrapbook page using your favorite pictures of your special person. Add in stickers or small items that represent something about their personality or a favorite memory.
14. Communicate Your Needs and Seek Support
While grieving it can be difficult to express needs. Even though it is challenging, you are more likely to receive the type of support you need if you are able to express it to those around you. It can be helpful to share your story with others who can relate to your loss or with those that listen in a non-judgmental fashion.
The hope for this list is to provide you with more options in celebrating yourself and honoring your loved one(s) this Valentine’s Day. However you decide to participate, or not participate, in this holiday, we hope you feel supported in your grief journey.