On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate the notion of love and the relationships we have with those who are significant in our lives. For those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, Valentine’s Day can be especially difficult and an emotional day. The bereavement counseling professionals at the Ohio’s Hospice Pathways of Hope℠ Grief Counseling Centers explain the emotions behind the holiday and tips on how to care for yourself during this time.
David Hargrave, bereavement counseling professional at Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare, explains that holidays can be particularly emotional due to secondary losses. “Secondary losses are a result of a primary death or loss,” Hargrave said. “There is a loss of shared traditions, companionship and future plans that we would have shared with our partners.”
Because of these secondary losses, those who are grieving often find holidays like Valentine’s Day to be overwhelming. Hargrave recommends going easy on yourself. “Remember you are going through a physically and emotionally stressful time,” he said. “If you want Valentine’s Day to be the same as it always was, you are in for disappointment and frustration. With time and healing, you can create and experience new and pleasant memories.”
Grief can make you feel pressure and fatigue during the holiday. Hargrave notes that it is OK to feel sad on a holiday that is filled with idealistic expectations of happiness and joy.
In contrast, it is OK to feel good during the holiday. “Give yourself permission to feel good, to laugh, and even to have fun. To feel good and laugh at times during your grief is a normal and healthy reaction,” Hargrave said. “You are in no way being disrespectful to the memory of your loved one if you enjoy yourself at times.”
Michelle Kessler, bereavement coordinator at Community Care Hospice and Ohio’s Hospice of Fayette County, encourages those who have lost a partner to try reframing the way they think about Valentine’s Day.
“The focus of Valentine’s Day is normally on romantic love,” Kessler said. “Try thinking about the holiday as sending love to family, friends and yourself. Everyone needs to feel loved.”
Kessler recommends practicing self-care through any activities you find relaxing, such as a massage or listening to music. If you are looking to Scatter Kindness™ with others on Valentine’s Day, some ideas include baking treats for friends and family, sending cards to loved ones, and offering one random act of kindness to a stranger.
Deb Holt, bereavement counseling professional at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, shares that those who are grieving are typically just catching their breath from the rush of the holidays in November and December. “Red hearts with cupid bows, boxes of candy, commercials with couples, and flower bouquets once again takes our breath away,” Holt said.
Valentine’s Day often brings back memories of cards, dinners and expressions of love with your loved one. While you may want to ignore this particularly difficult holiday, Holt suggests choosing to focus on what the day means – celebrating, giving and receiving love of all kinds.
Volunteering, offering kindness to others, and telling loved ones how much they mean to you are some ways to share love with others in your life. Holt also recommends caring for yourself. “Treat yourself to an at-home spa day, a large chocolate sundae, or binge-watching a TV series,” she said. “Do whatever makes you smile.”
Susan Good, bereavement counseling professional at Ohio’s Community Mercy Hospice, a service of Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, discusses how there will always be hard days during the grief journey. “Sadness will be your traveling partner for a long time,” Good said. “But you can be your greatest cheerleader as you look at how far you have come.”
For additional grief support, Pathways of Hope℠ services are available to the friends and family of all Ohio’s Hospice patients, as well as anyone in the communities Ohio’s Hospice serves. For more information, please visit: https://www.ohioshospice.org/pathwaysofhope/