Grief trigger warning for the newly widowed: I’m sorry for the renewed pain this occasion brings you; you’ll find more comfort reading this account of my sweet grandparents — Valentine Loss — A Love Story — than the post below.
If you’re looking for specific words and actions to help a bereaved friend, Valentine Greetings for the Grieving offers a checklist of dos and don’ts.
If you’re still here, bless you!
Back when I shopped with three young daughters, I dreaded Pepto-pink Barbie aisles (for too many reasons to explain here). These days, with my daughters and son-in-law all twenty-somethings, similar aversion rises like bile when I scurry past pink and red aisles of Valentine’s Day LOVE! proclaimed as a shopping to-do list, and my response is much the same toward lovey-dovey declarations flooding Facebook.
Now, please understand. I’m not cynical about celebrating romantic love. It’s a beautiful, wonderful bond that places rose-colored lenses on starry-eyed dreams.
But my 45-year-young husband lost his mind and then, at 47, his life. As a widow, Valentine’s Day annoys (shouldn’t you proclaim your love to your sweetheart 365 days a year?) and hurts (because I still — yes, still, after six-plus years — miss my own sweetheart).
It’s easier this year, but easier doesn’t mean easy. In past Februarys, seeing friends’ “I love my sweetheart so much” posts punched the breath out of me. (Grief hits below the gut, you know.)*
This year, I’m meeting the current Facebook plague — er, trend — head-on with (admittedly warped, slightly irreverent) widowed humor. (I’ve copied the anonymously authored Facebook heading and questions below in bold, italicized font and provided my responses below.)
In honor of Valentine’s Day, all married, engaged, or dating couples: Make this your status and answer honestly.
• Who’s oldest? He was but stopped aging, so I am now. (Couldn’t figure out my own age for two years after he died.)
• Who was interested first? He called me. Stopped calling several years ago, though.
• Better sense of humor? I loved his sense of humor, but he won’t laugh at my jokes anymore.
• Most sensitive? I’m not ashamed to cry in public over a touching advertisement, a lovely sunset, or a couple holding hands. My husband, on the other hand, never shows his feelings these days.
• Worst temper? Mine, especially while driving or taking out the trash during the first year after he died. My husband seldom raised his voice when alive. Now he gives me the silent treatment.
• More social? That would be me, the introverted writer, unless I’m in the middle of reading a great book series. Or when when grief reboots my antisocial hibernation hormones. Then my husband might be better company. After all, he does hang out with a large group of people all day, every day — at the cemetery.
• Hardest worker? I don’t see him helping me pay the bills or tackle household chores.
• Most stubborn? Clearly, I now win all disagreements, set the thermostat where I want it, and have the last word about everything in our marriage.
• More sarcastic? My husband hasn’t made a smart-aleck comment in over six years. I, on the other hand …
• Who makes the most mess? I blame him for the clutter in my closet. (His bins of things I can’t quite throw out yet take up a third of the occupied space.)
• Wakes up first? Hard to say, unless by “wakes up first” the question means “sleeps less.” Then it’s me. Definitely me.
• Most flexible? (Can’t claim an original reply here. Too many widowed friends posted answers referring to rigor mortis and other morbid conditions we who survive our loved ones sometimes think, talk, and joke about more than we should.)
• Who cooks the most? Hubby cooked better than I when we were newlyweds, but over years as a stay-at-home mom (aka seldom-home-while-chauffeuring-kids-and-volunteering mom), I held my own with Betty Crocker, Better Homes and Gardens, and Joy of Cooking. After he died … hmm … I wonder … What did I feed my daughter while trying to remember how to cook again?
• Better singer? (Sigh.) He had an amazing voice. We sang together in choirs and (cliché though it may sound) we made beautiful music together. (Sigh.)
• Hogs the covers? The covers stay where I want them now — what a great perk of widowhood! Hooray!
• Who smells better? If I don’t smell better than he does, something’s dreadfully wrong.
• How long have you been together? Three decades — married 24 years, widowed 6 — if I count the years he’s slept at the cemetery as “together.”
*Still feeling brave? Here’s a prickly, pre – Valentine’s Day encounter I wrote a few years into widowhood: The Sister, the Beast, and the Invitation to Love.