Valentine's Day is here again. Who invented this holiday anyway? Why is there so much pressure to purchase diamonds, roses, chocolates? I don't like chocolate, and while I adore fresh flowers in the middle of winter, I'd much prefer a random offering, say, on a Thursday for no reason at all. Seeing my husband arrive with his face covered by a giant display of expensive flowers because it was Valentine's Day was nice, but it always seemed...contrived.
We never took Valentine's day very seriously. Apart from that ostentatious bouquet, it was not a day for gifts or jewelry. We exchanged cards, searching for either the soppiest poetry or silliest innuendo we could find. He always addressed his to "My Beautiful Wife," a reference to the Talking Heads song, Stop Making Sense. I keep finding them, tucked in the back of a drawer, hiding in between my cookbooks.
Holidays are always fraught, but this one comes with heart shaped expectations. When your partner has died, the Day of Love is bittersweet, even depressing. It is a negative reminder of an unexpected end. While it is not really an important holiday, the media frenzy of loving couples surprising each other with flowers, cards, jewels, staring at each other, is painful. The red and pink heart inundation and a particular advertisement that featured an old couple holding hands in a park sent me running from the room in the first few years after my husband died. We would never be that old couple in the park.
Ignoring it is, of course, an option but rather hard to accomplish unless you stay inside for a month with the lights out, TV and radio off. So, what is the alternative? Why not use this "romantic holiday" as an ode to all the love in our lives instead of feeling awful about the love we lost. Turn a tiny bit of the pain, sorrow, regret and disappointment into expression and remembrance.
Here are some ideas for getting through a Widowed Valentine's Day:
~ Write a letter to your spouse or partner. Begin with this: I love you because you….Write in the present tense; honor the feelings you shared and keep them in your heart. When you are done, read the letter as if you were reading to him or her.
~ Write another note to yourself containing at least three answers to the following sentence. Begin with this: I am lovable because I….Recognize the wonderful, loving qualities you have. Express them, decorate them, bring them forward. Read your note aloud to yourself.
~ Buy yourself some flowers. Contrivance aside, having something pretty and fresh in the house is uplifting. They don't have to be over the top, expensive or elaborate. A $5 supermarket bunch will do. Get yourself some lovely blooms that please you, arrange them in a nice vase and place them on display. Be sure to put them in the room you spend the most time in. Allow yourself to enjoy their beauty. Let them remind you of the beautiful love you shared.
~ Send someone a Valentine's card. Your children are obvious "targets," as are siblings or friends. Yesterday, I made personalized collage cards for each of my children. You can also call someone you love (or several people) and ask them the traditional Valentine's questions: "Will you Be Mine?" Reach out, spread the love.
While I am no longer alone, Valentine's day always fills me with remembrance of Alby. I think about those silly cards; I think about his generous spirit, his warm blue/grey eyes looking at me softly. I know he will always Be Mine.