How do you survive your first Valentine’s Day as a widow? After your husband dies any Valentine’s Day is hard, but the first February 14 is particularly painful. These ideas for coping with Valentine’s Day after a husband’s death are inspired by a reader’s comment and question. February 14 is hard not just because she’s a widow, but because it’s also their wedding anniversary.
“I barely survived Christmas after my husband died, and now it’s both Valentine’s Day and our anniversary,” she said Comfort and Hope as You Grieve Your Husband’s Death. “We got married on February 14, exactly one year after he proposed. I’m not just dreading Valentine’s Day…it’s the whole month of February that’s hard. I’m a Christian and I believe my husband is safe in Heaven with God. But I’m also terribly lonely and sad. How do widows cope with Valentine’s Day after their husbands die?”
There are no easy answers or quick tips for coping with grief on February 14 — especially if Valentine’s Day was a special occasion for you and your husband. But, you may find comfort and companionship in the company of others. If you feel less alone with other widows, read the comments section of How to Get Through the Day When You’re a Grieving Widow. Below, I share a few ideas for facing Valentine’s Day after your husband’s death.
The reader who lost her husband is a Christian widow, so I wove God and spiritual healing through this article. It fits because — ironically — God was the very first to experience the heartbreak of losing a loved one. Remember Adam and Eve’s decision to reject Him by seeking independence and separation? God didn’t “kick them out” of the Garden of Eden. He provided for them and He let them go.
Similarly, Eve had no choice but to let go of her dead son Abel (who committed the Bible’s first recorded murder). How did she say good-bye to him? Did she wail and keen? Did Adam comfort her? Or, perhaps Adam was the crier and Eve the comforter. This was their first experience with family death, and perhaps even the first time they experienced the death of a fellow human being.
4 Valentine’s Day Ideas for Grieving Widows
Scripture contains thousands, perhaps millions, of ancient stories of death, grief and suffering. But Valentine’s Day is a relatively new tradition. The Bible isn’t an instruction manual for daily life today, and definitely doesn’t tell widows how to face Valentine’s Day after their husband’s death! This gives us the freedom and creativity to grieve in ways that fit our personality, lifestyle, and relationships.
The most important thing is not to fight your feelings, or your life the way it is today. Let yourself grieve for as long as you need. Be gentle with yourself. No matter how strong or healthy you are, it hurts to be a widow on Valentine’s Day. Allow yourself to feel the pain and grief…and remind yourself that you won’t always feel this way.
This, too, shall pass.
1. Crawl under the covers
Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back is my first traditionally published book (Bethany House). In it, I share several of my own painful memories of loss, rejection, grief, and abandonment. It’s really hard — and incredibly emotionally exhausting — to write through the pain I’ve experienced.
One of my saddest and yet most healing experiences was grieving my Grandma’s death. My Baba died in March, about a week before my birthday. After I got home from her funeral, there was a birthday card from her in the mail. She’d sent it – along with $50 – a couple days before she died.
That was when I crawled under the covers for days, perhaps weeks, and grieved her death. I nurtured and took care of myself by napping, reading, crying and writing. That’s how I grieved her death. And it’s how my heart healed.
2. Write three encouraging comments to other widows on an online grief support group
I used to participate in Facebook grief support groups; in fact, I looked there for ideas for this article. I wasn’t sure what tips or ideas I could offer widows on coping with the first Valentine’s Day after a husband dies. While it was good to see widows supporting each other, I found myself sadder and heavier after reading the comments.
If you haven’t tried an online grief support group, visit a few different ones. See if it helps you cope. Share your story, notice how you feel before and after. Make three comments that comfort, console and encourage other widows. Your words won’t just help other women cope on Valentine’s Day, they’ll help you grieve your husband’s death in a more positive, meaningful way.
Note how you feel after interacting in an online grief support group. Do you feel mostly better or worse? I suspect you’ll feel a bit of both. If you’re more depressed than comforted after, maybe grief support groups aren’t for you.
3. Blend the past with the present
Immersing yourself in grief and regret on Valentine’s Day is an option — but not a very healthy one! Completely ignoring your husband’s death is another option…but, again, not very healthy. How about blending memories of the past with thoughts of the present? Do something different on Valentine’s Day to honor your husband’s life and mark your journey forward into life without him.
“My husband died one year ago, on February 3,” writes a reader called Carole on How to Handle Emotional Numbness After a Loved One Dies. “I ordered Luminary Bags (small paper bags or lanterns to put electric candles in) and small LED candles. I’ve invited my husband’s his family and close friends to come and celebrate his first year in Heaven. We’re having wine, beer, and appetizers. Every one will have a bag and candle, and we’ll set them on the path leading up to our house. This will be in memory of my lost husband because I needed to do something for him and for me on Valentine’s Day.”
4. Read stories of love, loss, hope and healing
Stories can comfort, console, and give you hope for the future. Remember Eve, of the Bible? One of her sons (Cain) murdered her other son (Abel). She also had to cope with family estrangement and a very bitter young man. Cain was furious that God cast him away from his parents and community. “My punishment is too great to bear!” he said to God in Genesis 4:13. “You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer.”
Imagine Eve. Shocked. Grieved. Unable to understand how her life fell apart so suddenly and terribly. The grief of one son’s death, the shock of the first murder of a human being, the pain of their other son’s banishment…so much to bear! Letting go of her sons would have been heartbreaking. Forgiving herself for whatever part she played — real or imagined — in her sons’ lives must have felt impossible.
But Eve healed. And she found comfort and joy in her new life. It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t easy, but her life was deep and rich. And so is yours.
This, too, shall pass.
A Widow’s Guide to Healing
In A Widow’s Guide to Healing: Gentle Support and Advice for the First 5 Years Kristin Meekhof and James Windell describe what it’s like to lose a husband to cancer.
Kristin discovered what all widows learn: the moment you lose your husband, you must make crucial decisions that will impact the rest of your life. But where do you begin? This inspiring book shows grieving widows what to expect and how to deal with the challenges of losing a life partner.
This widow’s guide offers support for immediate issues like finances, estates and medical bills — as well as long-term hurdles such as single parenthood, being a widow in the workplace and navigating social situations by yourself, this book guides widows through the tumultuous and painful first five years to a more hopeful future.
You may also find it helpful to read Starting Over in Your 60s After Your Husband Dies. Also, feel free to comment below. How will you cope with Valentine’s Day as a widow? Writing can be a healthy way to express grief and process your feelings.
With love and sympathy,