A reader recently commented that she’s coping fairly well with her husband’s death, but Valentine’s Day is coming. And that changes everything. She just got through Christmas, and now she has to deal with the pain and grief of Valentine’s Day.
“We got married on February 14, exactly one year after he proposed,” she said. “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?”
I have no easy answers or quick tips for coping with grief on February 14 — especially if it was a special occasion or even an anniversary for you and your husband. This blog post isn’t about meeting new friends as a widow or trusting God’s plan for your life. In fact, I’m not sure what’ll I’ll write about! I’m just sitting here with you, holding your hand, feeling your pain and grief as you walk through Valentine’s Day after your husband’s death.
The pain of letting go is older than time. God was was the very first to experience the heartbreak of losing a loved one. Remember Adam and Eve’s choice to reject Him? God had no choice but to let Adam and Eve go after they refused to trust Him in the Garden of Eden.
Similarly, Eve had no choice but to let go of their 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.
But they didn’t have to deal with grief on February 14.
Grieving on Valentine’s Day
Be gentle with yourself. No matter what you do, it hurts to be a widow on Valentine’s Day. Expect to feel pain and grief, and give yourself time and space to collapse.
Crawl under the covers
I’m writing a book called Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back. It’s my first book, and I share about a dozen painful memories of loss, rejection, grief, and abandonment. It’s really hard — and incredibly emotionally exhausting — to write through the pain I’ve experienced.
And I have bad days. Not days that I can’t write, but days that I do write, and it takes all my energy. Those days I call “Zombie Days.” I had one a couple days ago, and today is a Half-Zombie Day. What do I do when I’m dead with grief and pain because of the past? Crawl under the covers. I curl up in front of the fireplace and sleep. That helps me heal, and brings me through the valley of the shadow of death.
Avoid online grief support groups — unless they help
I belong to a couple of Facebook grief support groups; in fact, that’s where I got the idea to write about coping with your first Valentine’s Day after your husband’s death. I don’t know how or why a grief support group could be helpful. Yes, it’s nice to know people understand the grief of Valentine’s Day after a husband dies, but the stories are so sad, shocking, and painful. Yes, your fellow grievers know how you feel and offer their sympathy, but…it’s so terribly sad to read about all the pain. If you feel worse after being part of an online grief support group, then avoid the interaction.
Want to Blossom?
However, it may comfort you to know you’re not the only grieving widow on Valentine’s Day. Then, dig in and get involved with an online grief support group. Just pay attention to how you feel. If you find yourself sadder and more depressed after reading the entries, then stay away. Grieving on February 14 is painful enough, without hearing how bad it is for others.
Do you want to do something different on Valentine’s Day to honor your husband’s life and death, or simply ignore it? Do what makes you feel better, without succumbing to other people’s wishes or opinions about how you “should” get through the day.
Here’s what one widow is doing:
My husband died one year ago, on February 3,” writes Carole on How Letting Go Helps You Heal and Blossom. “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.”
Read, if reading helps you heal
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.
Know that God grieves with you
God loves you and has a good plan for your life — even though you may never know why God allows such terrible grief. Pain is simply part of our life on earth, and so is death.
Remember Eve? One of her sons was a murderer, killing her other son. As if that wasn’t enough, she also had to cope with family estrangement and a bitter son. Cain was furious about being cast 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 Adam and Eve standing there, looking at each other, trying to figure out how it all 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! How, I wonder, did those losses affect their marriage? They would’ve had to rebuild their relationship, and work through the temptation to point fingers and blame each other for parenting decisions and mistakes. Letting go of their sons would’ve been heartbreaking; forgiving themselves for whatever part they played — real or imagined — in their sons’ lives must have felt impossible.
Remember that God feels the pain of death and separation. “Listen!” He said to Cain in Genesis 4:10. “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” God knows the pain of death. He understands the darkness and emptiness of loss. He grieved when He lost Adam and Eve, He grieved for Cain and Abel’s lives, and He grieved when His son Jesus died on the cross for us.
God is grieving with you today, for the losses you face. I don’t know if this helps you cope with the pain and grief of your first Valentine’s Day after your husband’s death…but hold on to it. Know that God hears your pain, and He hates the taste of blood and death. Trust that, at the end, all will be made right.
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