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Just about the time many who are grieving put the holidays behind us, another one, a tough one for many, comes along. It is, of course, Valentine's Day. While those around us make plans to celebrate the day, we who have lost a lover, partner, or spouse feels bombarded with ads for romantic dinners, films, trips, greeting cards and more. The world starts to feel dominated by couples deeply in love (true or not) when we are without that one person whose death changed our lives forever.
At five years out from that horrendous day when death stole my beloved husband Bill, I find that I handle these days better than in the first two or three years. I am learning to live around the hole and yes, with the hole created by his absence and when the pain that is always there wells up, I allow it and feel it but am able to "bounce" back more easily. The sadness is always there sitting in the back of my heart most days and on some days it brings me to tears and feelings of emptiness. There is not a day that goes by that I do not experience sadness and longing for his presence but grief has increasingly less control over my life and emotions. So, like most of you who are reading this and who have experienced the loss of someone you love recently (recent is defined by each person) I will be glad to see the red hearts, balloons, cards, and ads along with conversations about Valentine's Day plans, chocolate, and surprises....just disappear. I am happy for all of those who have wonderful moments on and around February 14 but I don't need to hear all of the details.
So how will I spend this Valentine's Day? That has varied each year since Bill died. This year I have decided to spend some of the day looking at photos and writing a love letter that focuses on my feelings (sad and joyful) and on precious moments in our lives. I do this fairly regularly but this year I imagine the letter will be rather lengthy as I anticipate the 5th anniversary of his death on March 27, something that is leading me to think back over our lives and over these five years. I also plan to write a response to my letter as if I am him.
As a therapist for many years, I have often suggested to clients that they write a letter to the loved one who died. It can be a healing tool. It can help us get in touch with our feelings. Writing a response as if from that person can also be healing and insightful because very often we know what they would say to us. One must know oneself and where you are at on your journey to know if this exercise is for you or not.
This year I will also send "love notes" to some friends; and do something kind for someone who is alone and have lunch with a friend who cares and listens and who does not try to take away my feelings or judge them. We do that for each other.
Most important when days come along that have the potential to be difficult, I create a plan.
What does Valentine's Day mean to you?
How will you spend this day?
What does it bring up for you?