11 Reasons Why Widowed HATE Valentines Day…

….and what to do about it.

~Maggie Moore, The Widow Coach
#valentines #grief #love #widow #widower

This is Your Guide for Coping With Red Day…When You Want To Run Away!
The only day worse for widowed people than a “family holiday” is Valentines Day.

Here Are Eleven Reasons Why We Despise Valentines Day….

  1. All the “over-the-top” merchandising in the stores. Every bit of heart, flowers and pink is in our face from the end of January sales until, well, Easter. I seriously wanted to tear it ALL down the year after my husband died and get kicked out of the store. Thank God for Superbowl distraction!
  2. The money-making aspects…dang, when did flowers like Roses double (or triple) in price?
  3. You get sick watching the PDA…everywhere!
  4. Couples share their love EVERYWHERE…and you know EXACTLY where your beloved is…but can’t get to him or her!
  5. Restaurants sometimes increase prices…so there goes dinner out!
  6. ROM COM HELL on every channel.
  7. News “features” on LOVE, COUPLEHOOD and COMMITMENT. There is no escape!
  8. “Flash in the pan” love gestures…the snarky, hurt side of you would give ANYTHING to be with your beloved…and you feel like they will all be “back to normal” February 15th and not appreciate what they have! Not true, but it SURE feels that way!
  9. Social Media is PACKED with selfies, couple selfies, presents, engagements, LOVE-PACKED posts.
  10. Complicated Memories make for triggers all over. Love your spouse and this hurts. If you had a complicated relationship (a.k.a. not so good) then this is DOUBLY DIFFICULT to see all of this and deal with your complicated grief, too!
  11. Everyone’s a Cupid! For some reason, EVERYONE AND THEIR BROTHER gets the “love bug” and thinks you should FIND SOMEONE around this time, too.

I wanted to leave the PLANET until after February 14th and felt like someone was slicing my heart with RAZORS. My husband John loved me EVERY day and did so many thoughtful things throughout the year, and I loved him right back. Valentines Day was TORTURE! Sound familiar?

This holiday, more than any are confronted by images of happy, intact couples and marriages. Also, the “holiday trifecta” continues (Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa start the season) so we are also dealing with the fact that our traditions are forever changed by the passing of our spouse. Sometimes it’s the first, daunting, V-day holiday without our spouse.

However, there are some things you can do to get through, and even have good feelings during, this time.

Your Kickass Strategy for Taking Back Valentines Day!
Before things begin…

~Decide what you want and need Before you get into the swing of Red Month. Quietly consider what is right for you and your loved ones. Was the holiday something you shared with your spouse? Do you feel you would draw energy from the events, or are you overwhelmed at the very thought of celebrations, love or other images? Do you feel that you need to do something for your children? What does your spiritual tradition say about this time?

~Make sure your Stress Management Plan is in Place before you Step Out
In my classes and my coaching, I teach the importance of a plan to handle grief and stress triggers. Do you know what your comforting activities and people are? Have you identified your “watch list” of things that can cause stress? Having a plan to handle your grief is half the battle. You’re grieving, you don’t need to be “fixed” but a little planning can go a long way.

~Don’t give into the “it’s what your spouse would have wanted” comments by possibly well-intentioned, but incorrect people.
I firmly believe that the best version of our spouses would want us to be healthy, happy and peaceful-and that means doing what is right for you. Don’t get bullied, but don’t close out options, either.

~Consider your energy and sanity and your family’s above all else.

Enough said.
Then, take a few minutes to balance your actual plans….

~Create a balance in Your Activities.

If this is your first Valentines Day, you don’t yet know how you will react. Balance is your friend. If you do have to decline an invitation because it is simply too much, then consider alternatives like: getting together in a smaller group, getting together after the VDay or just proposing something different that fits you better. Your friends and family want to support you, but they often don’t know how.

~Decide What You Want to Do.

My first Valentine’s Day was hard. I was ten months in, had a little bit of my “sea legs” with dealing with triggers, but felt unprepared for RED DAY. Semi-close friends were on my case asking when I was going to date again-when the thought had me choking with anxiety. I had successfully gotten through the holidays, but wasn’t sure what to do. I decided I wanted to do SOMETHING. But that is my personality. Others consciously “downshift” but what I want to encourage you here is to decide what is right for you.

~Take Back Red Day.

I decided that I was going to “take back” the holiday from all those people who had stolen it from me!

Here are some ideas (more coming in a future post)…

  • Host a “Gal”entines Day or a Guy’s Getaway: Who says couples get to have all the fun? Take advantage of all those specials by hosting a suddenly single dinner at one of those restaurants, or a poker night
  • Have a “SASSY SINGLE” dinner out…and enjoy those romantic dinner deals by turning them into a delightful dinner with friends. Just be sure to tell your server so they don’t make any assumptions (and most treated us BETTER as the “sassy single” table!)
  • Take back the love…and make it about family and friends! Hey, all those ideas are there anyway, what about hosting a card exchange with your single friends? I spoiled my son with cool, inexpensive stuff during the holiday…little love notes and other things in his lunches, matchbox cars, dinner-and-a-movie deals
  • Create a vision board for what you want. Invite friends and do it together!
  • Deal with the anger in a fun way….I took one of the most sappy pictures I saw that made me mad and slapped it in the middle of my dartboard. Another I taped up to a punching bag at the gym. Best.workout.ever!! Second best: Going AXE THROWING (Thank you, Groupon!)
  • Spoil your friends. Valentines Day I took off from work over lunch and picked up some now-cheap mini rose plants at the supermarket and delivered them to my single girlfriends.
  • Go to “anti-love” movies at the movies! My son and I went to adventure movies all that month, along with our widower buddies….just make sure to arrive late and SKIP the previews just so you aren’t caught off guard!
  • Go do an adventure activity, like a shooting range, glass blowing, Escape from an escape room, batting cage or other adventure. They don’t have to cost a lot….check out places that offer group deals, like Groupon or Living Social.
  • Get classy: Find a class at your local adult ed or park district around the holiday, or “exchange expertise” with a friend (you teach them something and they teach you).

Stock up just before and just after the holiday. Guess what goes on sale as the holiday gets closer and after… perfectly good food, candy and goods that just happens to be red or associated with the holiday. Get your flowers for the house for a steal February 15th or figure out how to treat yourself. Spa, anyone? Guys, don’t forget to pick out something for yourself!

~Have a plan…and a getaway plan I teach my clients during the “Handling the Holidays” classes and webinars that you need a plan. Your energy will be tested and triggered during the holidays by these events focused on happy, intact families, so try to decide what you can handle ahead of time. Along with that, have a getaway plan. Your getaway plan can be a quiet word to the host/hostess prior that you may need to step out unexpectedly, or to request if there is a quiet corner of the house to retreat to if you are staying with relatives. Do the same for your children.

~Include Options in Your Plan. You don’t know what your energy level is going to be. Include fallback options in your planning and adapt as necessary. If you are planning to host a family or friends gathering, decide if you want to prepare all the food yourself (done by you), if you want to co-host with another family member/delegate others to bring things (done with you), or order a meal and pick it up. (done for you).
Another widow client of mine decided she needed a break. She decided only to attend a few things outside her house, but have no decorations that first year. It worked. Her house was a sanctuary and a refuge from the dreaded RED DAY.

~When Accepting an Event, Make Your Host(ess) Your Ally. A little preparation here goes a long way. You need to leave yourself an “out” if the grief hits hard, so accept as many invitations as you feel up to, but help them help you by saying something like, “Thank you for thinking of me. I am sure it will be wonderful. I am planning to come, but I could use your help. I am sure it will be fine, but if the memories hit me hard, I may need to step out or leave. I know I can count on your support if that happens. Thank you for being on my team-and inviting me.”

~Manage Your Media. Ugh. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but I HATED ROM COM HELL during that first Valentines Day. Not only were the movies about love, but they are equal parts laughter and tears. Death and separation figure prominently in many of them. Especially during this time, it might be best to google the plots before you watch so you aren’t caught off guard. I recommend you have a holiday playlist on your phone so you aren’t caught off-guard by “your holiday song” on the radio. Take a break from FACEBOOK for 30 days around V-Day if you have to, just let your friends know!

~Memorialize Your Beloved in Events and Around Your House. In small and large ways, you can celebrate your beloved’s life. They will be there anyway-so incorporate that love. I told my son stories of the great romantic his dad was during V-Day. We provided some assistance to the local food bank to in his memory. Another widower I know put his wife’s pin in his pocket so she always went with him to holiday events that first year (from Thanksgiving to Easter for them…)

~Set Boundaries. Oh, my. I can (and do) teach entire courses on setting boundaries as a widowed person. Ironically, when we don’t want to talk about our beloved, at that exact moment, someone will interrogate us. Then when we do want to talk, no one is around. When the first situation happens and someone asks, “How are you really, my response is, “Thank you for asking about how I am doing. For now, I just want to enjoy this event and I am happy to catch up later, perhaps over coffee?”

~Watch Your Dating. There is a thing called, “RED DAY” in which people break up before Valentines Day because of the emotions surrounding the holiday and the buildup. Forewarned is forearmed if you are currently dating…have a backup plan because the “boomerang” effect of being broken up with before the holiday can be devastating when widowed. Been there, done that (and was seriously tempted to throw breakables at the wall…but then I’d have to clean it up!)

~Substitute with Giving Activities. Paradoxically, we can feel minimized during the grief process by our grief and the help we receive, because it can make us feel inadequate because we can’t “handle” this challenge. Giving of your time and talents can provide a wonderful boost during the holidays and help us to stay connected to the world. During the first year my husband passed, we substituted our traditional Thanksgiving trip by spending it at an Adopt-A-Sailor event. Volunteering at that event soothed our souls on what would have been, otherwise, a very difficult day and we have continued to support that event. During Valentines Day, we did the same thing…helped out locally, sometimes anonymously. My son and I challenged each other to do something nice for someone for 30 days before the holiday…and 15 of them had to be secrets.

~Feel free to adapt as necessary. Give yourself permission to just “be” and change the plan to suit your needs.

You can do it! I believe in YOU!!!

~The Widow Coach

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