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).
My husband died on Feb. 13 so needless to say, Valentine’s Day as always left a hole In my heart. I love and agree with all your suggestions. Reminding people that they can memorialize the love they have for the deceased ANY day of the year through making a donation to their favorite charity – creating a sacred place in their home with their loved ones picture or a gift they received from them, or putting a favorite picture into a heart shaped frame. Sometimes we just need to “re-frame” our idea of the holiday in a way that honors what is at the center of it all – LOVE!
I think “re-framing” holidays is great. I’m learning to do that (to a degree), but it took a couple of years to become open to such an idea.
(Earlier, I needed to process my emotions however and wherever they fell. It was a big help when others accepted my feelings as valid instead of telling me how or what I should be feeling or doing with those feelings.)
To lose your husband so close to Valentine’s Day … I’m sorry. There isn’t any “good” date for a loss, but I think some may be harder to work through than others.
Time does change a lot of things and yes, there is NO good date for loss! You were wise in knowing the importance of feeling and expressing what you needed to do, whatever the emotion!
I’m not sure wisdom was on my side at the time! When grief was new and raw, I could seldom identify my own overwhelming feelings. I could tell when well-meaning folks tried to push or pigeonhole their expectations (or interpretations) of my emotions–and how I was handling them. The friends who helped me the most were the ones who acknowledged, accepted, and validated my feelings.
Yes, the friends and family who seem to “get it” allow us to go wherever we need to during the journey and are such a blessing! Glad you had those kind of friends…
[…] you’re looking for specific words and actions to help a bereaved friend, Valentine Greetings for the Grieving offers a checklist of dos and […]
Great article. Thank you.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you, Mary.
My father died on January 23rd I will miss him for his kind love and smile that I feel sad take care alright bye
I’m sorry about your father’s death. This must be a difficult time as you miss his kindness and smile.
i am 9 months into the loss of my wife Joanne. each holiday has been painful now V day. one the year of holidays is over maybe is will be less painful the second year around. i am alone and scared and don’t know what to do anymore. i ask friends and family to call and come see me but few do. its hard to restart ones life after loosing a partner, love, friend, experiences together, memories, ug!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes, Ralph, it is harder than anyone can imagine until they have experienced a similar loss. I am very sorry that your wife died. Nine months of being widowed is still a time of raw, active grief. I’m sorry you are feeling so alone, and I understand how painful Valentine’s Day can be without your sweetheart. (This will be my 12th.) I hope some of the few friends and family who have reached out to you will continue to do so.