Lonely man walking with red roses

Coping with grief: The first Valentine's Day without a loved one

Posted by AK Lander | On February 8, 2021 00:00

With Valentine’s Day coming up, we offer some tips for those coping with grief who are going through the day after losing a loved one.

For some, Valentine’s Day can be a deeply intimate holiday where romance is shared, declarations of love are made, and time is spent with your loved one. But, for those who have recently lost a partner, this can be a challenging time of year where it feels like everything is focused on love, relationships and companionship.

Whether this is your first Valentine’s Day after losing your partner, or this is a holiday that you find reawakens your grief, we hope that the advice in this article can help you find peace on the 14th of February.

Advice for the first Valentine’s Day after a bereavement

Remember that you are not alone

The first thing that it is important to do is to remind yourself that you are not alone. Grief has a tendency to make you feel like an island, however, you are not. With friends and family around, it’s important to remind yourself that you have people around you who love you, care for you and who are there for you.

And, it doesn’t have to be friends or family who can lend a comforting ear or shoulder to cry on. If you are struggling with speaking to those you know, you can always look to talk to a third-party in the form of a professional counsellor. There are myriad online counsellors in the UK, and what’s more, there are many that specialise in particular types of loss so you can know that the person on the other end of the line really does know what you are going through.

READ MORE: Online grief counselling in the UK

Be careful about continuing old traditions

For couples who have been together for a long time, Valentine’s Day traditions can be formed which take place every year to mark the day. On Valentine’s after your partner passes, you may be tempted to continue these traditions, however, be sure that this will not cause you more pain if you do. Unfortunately, with all the will in the world, the day will not be the same as it was before, and, by doing the same actions, you may intensify that feeling that something is missing, leading to feelings of deeper isolation.

Instead, why not try a new tradition that pays homage to the old without having to relive it? If you always went to get Mexican food, for example, why not whip up a Mexican-inspired dish at home for yourself instead? This way you can experience the nostalgia without battling through the tradition.

Red roses and chocolates for Valentines day

Give yourself an exit plan

If you do choose to make plans on this day, then be sure to give yourself an exit plan. Whether you’re working that day, have chosen to treat yourself to a dinner out or are just meeting friends and family, make sure that you will be able to abandon any plans made if you aren’t up to it.

As we know, grief isn’t a linear thing and some days, even the smallest thing may make grief feel overwhelming. When making plans with others, make it known that the day might be hard for you and you may cut short or choose not to follow through with premade planning. In the instance you have to work, take your manager to one side when you get a chance or drop them an email and explain the situation also. If you have solo plans, make sure they can be left if you don’t feel up to it.

Explaining to AfterTalk, widower Larry says: “I clearly remember how I felt on my first Valentine’s Day after my wife, Vanessa, had died. I made the cardinal mistake: having forgotten it was Valentine’s Day, I went to dinner with a friend surrounded by happy couples and waiters handing out roses. We left after the first course. I just couldn’t take it.”

Having an exit plan in place, even if you don’t use it, means that you are prepared for every possibility and outcome. For those who feel extremely anxious about how their grief may manifest this can be a great way to calm those nerves.

Don’t push yourself to move on if you aren’t ready

It can be tempting around Valentine’s Day to start reaching out to people and trying to date, however, if you aren’t ready for this, it can be wise to resist the urge. Especially when it’s romantic companionship that you are craving, embarking on dates or even just downloading dating apps might seem like a good idea at the time but, after losing a romantic partner, these kinds of steps can also be the biggest to take.

Friends or family, equally, may want to try and help you by setting you up with a potential new partner. On occasions like this, drawing a strict boundary and making it clear that this is not only something you aren’t emotionally ready for, or even something you are looking for assistance with, is essential. Remember, grief is different for everyone and what may have worked for one person doesn’t need to work for you and you don’t need to feel guilty for that.

Be your own Valentine

Valentine’s is a day of love, so what better a day to show yourself that love and be your own Valentine? Whatever it is that makes you feel happiest, do that for yourself. Treat the day as if it’s your job to take yourself on a date and put in the effort you would have for your partner. You could even buy yourself a card and a gift to open on the morning of. This way, you can still go through the motions of Valentine’s Day shopping as usual, and you’ll have something to make yourself smile.

Even if you don’t go to those levels, let yourself be sad and be kind. Put on that film that never makes you fail to laugh, order your favourite takeaway and devour your favourite chocolate bar after.

Very Well Health explains: “Grief takes not only an emotional toll on those mourning a death, but it also takes a physical one. Often, the bereaved person feels exhausted because of poor eating habits, a lack of exercise, or inadequate sleep. If that describes you, then practice some self-love during the holiday by paying attention to your physical needs.”

Focus your attention somewhere else

Although Valentine’s Day is traditionally about couples, it doesn’t need to be. If you are struggling with not knowing where to focus your love, why not choose to treat someone else you love and care for instead? Whether that’s treating your children to a nice meal and buying them small gifts, expressing your love and gratitude to your parents or spending your time with a friend, focusing your attention on someone else can let you share your love.

Behind the Badge Foundation suggests this: “Since Valentine’s Day is often associated with romantic love, it’s easy to miss the other loves in your life—namely special friends and family. Take the day to celebrate a meaningful relationship—go out for lunch together, send a card, or plan a special night out. Redeem the day and recognize that love is broader than one relationship.”

READ MORE: How mindfulness can help with grief

How to cope with grief on Valentine’s Day

  • Advice for the first Valentine’s Day after a bereavement
  • Remember that you are not alone
  • Be careful about continuing old traditions
  • Give yourself an exit plan
  • Don’t push yourself to move on if you aren’t ready
  • Be your own Valentine
  • Focus your attention somewhere else

We know that when grieving, holidays can be hard and for those who have recently lost a partner, Valentine’s Day can be especially so. Hopefully, with these tips, the day will be more manageable.

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