Grief and Valentine’s Day
I read somewhere recently that in French “I miss you” is “Tu me manques,” which literally translates to “You are missing from me.” Assuming this translation is correct (and I have not let down my six years worth of French teachers), I think there is no truer way to express the love that remains after a significant person dies. Our love for them and the space left by the missing piece of us after their death takes the form of grief. This resonated with me especially as we near Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to the love we have for those around us and those this year that we might find are missing from us.
Though many people choose to brush aside this day, for those that are grieving it might feel harder to ignore, and might feel especially triggering after having recently made it through the often challenging holiday season and into a new year with the difficult milestone of being another year they have not lived with us.
If Valentine’s seems like it might be a difficult day for you and not one that you will be able to move through by distracting yourself or ignoring it entirely (which are acceptable ways to cope with the day should you choose) here are some suggestions to focus your energy and reframe the day if they are accessible to you:
Reach out to the important people in your life. Connect with your other loved ones with phone calls or texts or meet up for a coffee or meal. Send a card or bouquet of flowers to someone who has been particularly there for you. Fill the day reminding yourself of the support people in your life and by reminding them of the love they have from you.
Reach out to those you struggle to love. Perhaps there is a coworker that you find particularly difficult to interact with or a family member you have recently been struggling with because they have not been supportive of your grief process. Maybe this day is an opportunity to take the first step in mending that hurt or shortening that distance. Maybe it is simply avoiding negative thoughts about them or practicing patience when they frustrate you. Offering them grace and compassion will have benefits to your own wellbeing.
Reach out to strangers. Fill the day with small random acts of kindness like covering the cost of someone’s coffee or leaving a generous tip. Take the extra moment to smile or say good morning to the doorman or wish the checkout clerk at the grocery store a nice day. Look for opportunities to volunteer or donate to a cause close to you or your loved one’s heart. Fill your community with a little extra love.
Reach out to yourself. Do not underestimate the importance of self-love and self-care. Lean into your grief and give yourself permission today to focus on you. Eat a meal you enjoy. Carve out time for your favorite exercise class. Buy yourself a small gift or get a manicure. Sleep in late or go to bed early. Whatever it means to care for and treat yourself, do that. Fill your cup.
Reach out to your loved one. Even if your loved one is not physically with you, you can still take the opportunity to connect with them that day. Visit the cemetery, share happy memories with family and friends, enjoy pictures and videos of the times you had together, write a letter to them expressing the love you still have for them and the moments you miss. Honor them through the ways you reach out to those listed in suggestions 1-4 above. Remind yourself that your grief is their love persevering.