Holidays and other special occasions hurt when you’ve lost someone you love. Valentine’s Day is no exception.
When the love of your life has died, pre-Valentine’s advertising seems cruel. Perfect gift boxes from Jared and kisses beginning with Kay mock survivor’s lonely wedding rings and abandoned lips. Hallmark video vignettes leave tear marks. Plush teddy bears (or lace teddies), chocolate-covered strawberries (or chocolates), intoxicating aromas of roses (or colognes), intimate dinners out (or in) for two … Whatever romantic traditions a couple may have shared, reminders are everywhere that two are now halved into — rather than joined as — one.
Anyone who has lost somebody they love — parents, children, siblings, friends — not just romantic partners, can feel agonizing resurgence of “old” grief around the most heart-oriented part of the year. In my childhood home, Mom made heart-shaped pancakes and colored my milk pink every Valentine’s Day. She died nearly two decades ago, and I still ache for her — as well as for my late husband — every February 14.
For those whose grief began more recently, the already excruciating pain of loss is sharpened by the onslaught of all things about the holiday. Almost as devastating as the loss itself is the sensation of being forgotten, abandoned, or overlooked.
So what can you do to help your friends whose loved one has died? By telling your friends you’re aware of their pain on this holiday (and others!), you’ll alleviate some of that loneliness.
Instead of wishing a grieving widow(er) or other mourner “Happy Valentine’s Day,” express something that better reflects your awareness of the loss.
Here are some helpful things to say to those suffering any bereavement — not just to those who’ve lost a life partner:
- I know this is a difficult Valentine’s Day for you. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
- You are in my thoughts this Valentine’s Day.
- Thinking of you this week.
- Avoid saying “at least,” which diminishes the importance of the loss. Never, ever say it. Your purpose is to acknowledge the source of the grief, not gloss it over or otherwise minimize it.
Gestures are great, too, and they don’t have to be big. If you can’t bring yourself to address the loss directly in words, you can indeed show your concern and awareness — literally, in deeds:
- invitations to lunch/dinner at your home or a restaurant
- invitations to do ____ [something!] with you
- small gifts (a flower, a plant, a candy bar, a funny card … whatever you think may be of interest)
- completion of a chore (rake the yard, wash the car, walk the dog, shine shoes together, do a load of laundry or dishes …)
Whatever you choose to do for your grieving friends this Valentine’s Day, thank you for doing it. Thank you for acting to comfort their broken hearts on this day honoring love.
Please note: I have no relationship of any kind with Hallmark or Jared or Kay jewelers — beyond my deep seasonal aversion to their advertising campaigns (as explained above).