Valentine’s Day is looked at by many as a day to celebrate love and a time to rededicate your affection for another with flowers, cards, chocolate and a romantic dinner. But for those who are coping with the loss of a partner or loved one, it can trigger overwhelming feelings of loneliness, grief and isolation, with the seasonal décor serving as a constant reminder of their loss.
“Valentine’s Day can be particularly challenging for someone who is grieving the loss of a partner or spouse because the day is designed around devoting energy and time on that particular person,” said Steve Jacobsen, executive director of Hospice of Santa Barbara. “We invite those who are grieving the death of their partners to consider options that let Valentine’s Day still be a special day of memory and love, but in a new form that recognizes the absence we may feel.”
Hospice of Santa Barbara suggests these tips to help cope when missing that special someone on Valentine’s Day:
» Celebrate the life of your Valentine by continuing favorite traditions, such as decorating the house or baking goodies. Plan a dinner at your loved one’s favorite restaurant with relatives and friends who are also remembering his/her life.
» Appreciate friendships. This holiday is not exclusively for couples; it can be a time for you to share with others how special they are to you.
» Do something for others. Take the day off from work to volunteer somewhere close to your heart. Helping others can be a gift to yourself and help lift you spirits in a meaningful way.
» Treat yourself to something you love or have wanted to do for a long time.
» Plant a flower, garden or shrub as a permanent and growing symbol in memory of your loved one.
» Write a poem or letter for your loved one.
» Share stories of your early years of your romance with your children; it can be entertaining and allow you to remember how many wonderful times you had together.
» Spend time with an animal, or if you do not have a pet, visit a friend who does and soak in the comfort of unconditional love.
» Lean on your support. We all need a shoulder to lean on from time to time, and those who love you want to help. Try not to isolate yourself or pretend things are okay if they really aren’t.
» Allow yourself to set limits. It is absolutely acceptable to turn down invitations when your friends invite you to come out for Valentine’s Day.
While we know how much we care about friends and family members who are grieving a death, finding the right way to do to show our condolences can often be challenging. Here are some ways to offer comfort and express your sympathy on Valentine’s Day:
» Reach out. Call your friend to let them know you are thinking about them, and share a funny or touching story about their partner.
» Spread the love. Send cookies, flowers or another treat with a card that says something like: “I wanted to let you know I was thinking about you today.”
» Encourage expression of feelings. Allowing your friend to express his/her feelings and share memories may be a huge help. Try to listen without offering advice or interrupting them.
» Don’t be afraid to ask. If you normally celebrate Valentine’s Day as couples or in a group, you should still ask your friend with the loss to join you. Even if they decline, at least they know you did not forget or are avoiding them.
» Don’t be pushy. If your friend can’t bear to come out without his/her loved one on Valentine’s Day, let them know you will miss them, but don’t force them to come along.
Caring for yourself, caring for others, and the care of loving friends and family can make a tremendous difference on Valentine’s Day and every day.
Hospice of Santa Barbara “volunteers” its free professional counseling and care management services to more than 600 children and adults every month who are experiencing the impact of a life-threatening illness, or grieving the death of a loved one. Hospice of Santa Barbara is also present on seven local middle and high school campuses to work with children and teens who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
For more information about Hospice of Santa Barbara, including volunteer opportunities, call 805.563.8820 or click here.
— Kelly Kapaun is a publicist representing Hospice of Santa Barbara.