Love and Lost Love: When Valentine’s Day is Hard

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Written by Gary Roe

Ah, Valentine’s Day. A day celebrating love and romance. A day for cards, chocolate, and flowers. A day of hope, or perhaps disappointment.

All of us are wired to love and be loved. No wonder this day touches us deeply. We long to hear or read the words, “Be my Valentine.”

But what if we’ve lost someone? What if our Valentine is gone? This day of hearts, chocolate, and flowers can be one of sadness – a reminder of loss that brings pain instead of joy.

Death, divorce, abuse, estrangement, or loneliness can turn Valentine’s Day into an emotional minefield. We long for what we had, or grieve what we never got. We’re angry about how things are. Add some guilt into the mix, and the day can become a recipe for discouragement, depression, and despair.

If Valentine’s Day is challenging for you, what can you do?

Many people choose the easiest option: hide and wait it out. This is perhaps our most natural reflex when wounded and hurting. But it’s not healthy, and we know it.

Others choose to run. Some run into another’s arms. Others flee to someone or something to deaden the pain. This, of course, is another form of hiding, and therefore not a good option.

There is a third possibility: Use Valentine’s Day instead of letting it use you. Meet the day head on, and use it to help you heal and grow.

How? Here are four suggestions:

Make the decision to face the day and do something positive with it. The Grinch couldn’t stop Christmas from coming, you won’t be able to stop Valentine’s Day either. How can you use the day in a way that fits where you are right now?

Make proactive choices. You get to decide what to do, how, when, and with whom. Get around people who are helpful to you and limit your exposure to those who aren’t. Make a plan, even a very simple one, and take charge of the day.

Forgive. Say so long to guilt and bitterness. You’re too valuable to let such things occupy your heart. Choose to both forgive those who have wounded you and forgive yourself for what you did or didn’t do. Forgiveness releases your heart to heal from the past and grow into the future.

Express love. Honor “loves” who have passed. Write a letter or card. Give a gift in their name. Celebrate their memory, and be thankful. But don’t stop there.

Reach out and honor someone around you whom you respect and admire. How can you show them love and thanks? Help them feel appreciated and valued. Genuine service does wonders for a broken heart, especially if that heart is yours.

Isn’t Valentine’s Day ultimately about expressing love in the midst of the tough stuff? Life can be hard. How we deal with loss and disappointment is important. So much of life has to do with facing challenges and overcoming obstacles.

If you’re blessed to be with and enjoy your loved one this Valentine’s Day, what if you thought bigger than the two of you? Whom do know is hurting? Take the risk. Reach out. Serve them somehow. If you were in their situation, what would be most helpful to you?

Valentine’s Day can be tough. Many are grieving, because they dared to love. If we love, we will grieve, for grief is a part of love.

This day is about giving away what we all long for. If we freely passed along the love and respect we hunger to receive, imagine the impact we would make.

Valentine’s Day might be different for all of us.

Gary Roe is an author, speaker, and chaplain with Hospice Brazos Valley. His newest book, “Heartbroken: Healing from the Loss of a Spouse,” is a Finalist for two national book awards. If you’re hurting, please consider joining him for How to Heal from the Loss of a Love – a free, practical presentation sponsored by Hospice Brazos Valley and Hillier Funeral Home on Tuesday, February 9, 6:30pm at Hillier’s College Station location. Contact Gary at www.garyroe.com, groe@hospicebrazosvalley.org or (979) 821-2266.