Whatever the original meaning behind Valentine’s Day was, today it has come to be associated with romantic love and couples. This can be an especially painful holiday for people who are no longer part of a pair – whether due to the death of a partner or the break-up of a relationship. Everywhere a person turns in the days around February 14th, he or she runs into constant talk and pictures of couples and romantic love. Radio talk shows, music played, movies, TV, magazine. Unless one is a hermit who never leaves the house and has no electronic devices – it’s pretty challenging to avoid the implicit message:
You are supposed to be one of a pair.
For anyone who has recently gone from a couple to one, for whatever reason, this constant message can be like repeatedly being stabbed in the heart. Over and over.
Since it’s probably impossible to avoid all references and signs of Valentine’s Day – at least, not without completely withdrawing from the world and life – here are a few ideas for dealing with grief through the Valentine season.
Limit your exposure to “couple talk”
Now, I’m not normally one to advocate avoidance – I believe in experiencing and expressing emotions and dealing with things. However, excessive and needless suffering is not something I advocate either. There is no benefit to repeatedly viewing and hearing images and talk that arouse pain and grief (pain and grief are plentiful enough with any loss without adding extra). Turning of the TV for a week, listening to an iPod or CD’s instead of the radio, staying away from magazines and movies can be a huge help in reducing our exposure to “couple talk.”
I’d also suggest staying out of malls, greeting card stores, and gift shops for the duration – its like being bombarded in those types of places. This can be difficult given retailers tendency to start putting Valentine’s merchandise out before Christmas these days so if nothing else, make these trips as infrequent as possible.
Despite the retail world’s emphasis on Valentine’s being about couples and romantic love – it doesn’t have to be. Valentine’s can be about whatever you decide it to be about. I was never really a fan of Valentine’s Day until I redefined what it meant to me. My favorite view of it is to have it be about self-love – especially since the only person we are truly with forever is ourselves. Other ways of redefining it might include focusing on the love of family, friends, nature, pets, or anything else.
Create a New Valentine’s Celebration
Create a new way to celebrate Valentine’s Day other than the traditional romantic dinner, flowers, and chocolate. Go volunteer somewhere to express love to others – visit the elderly, help at a soup kitchen, read to kids, help deliver meals on wheels. Gather a group of other non-paired individuals and plan a fun get together. Have a self-love night – a night completely devoted to loving and nurturing yourself. Take yourself and a friend on a get away vacation.
There is always the option of ignoring Valentine’s Day completely. That’s completely valid – I did it a number of years. However, whether its romantic love, self-love, pet love, nature love or love of life in general – love is important and special. I believe that love is our natural state of being – and that is something to be celebrated.