Valentine's Day and Widowhood
by Christine Eggers, owner of ATH
Is there a holiday as painful as Valentine’s Day for the widowed? While the rest of the world is celebrating the joy of romantic love, widows are grieving without the ones they loved. Grief is isolating. It takes hold of your heart and doesn’t let go. There’s even something called the widowhood effect that suggests that the widowed are more at risk of dying than the general population. A lot of research says it exists, and some says it doesn’t. Maybe it’s that we want it to be true. To a culture raised on Romeo and Juliet it’s very romantic to believe that a couple simply couldn’t live without each other.
But, on Valentine’s Day, what’s a widow without a dagger to do? Google, “Valentine’s day and widowhood,” and there are dozens of articles filled with suggestions for how to survive Valentine’s Day after losing a spouse. Mostly distractions that have been useful to the authors. Make plans with single friends, go to a movie, look at photo albums to bring the departed nearer, the key is to fill up the time with something.
A few articles are for the friends and families of the widowed providing suggestions for how to help our widowed friends endure Valentine’s Day; “don’t forget them,” and “don’t ignore or avoid them.” We all need to feel loved, and they have lost the person who loved them best, so give them some loving attention. Buy them flowers, or candy. Take them out for a meal, or to a movie.
The common theme in these essays is that love is the attention we receive, and grief is the absence of that attention. The articles describe the pain of wives not receiving flowers on Valentine’s Day because their husbands are gone.
Isn’t the love we give is greater than the love we receive? Our widowed friends have lost the person they loved; the husband she prepared a favorite meal for; the wife whose car he kept running. Valentine’s Day, in particular, is spent finding special ways to delight the one we love. Having no one to do those special, loving things for may be a more painful loss than not receiving gifts. Valentine’s Day without flowers, candy, or jewelry is sad, but isn’t it the empty time that breaks our hearts?
Instead of sending flowers to replace the gift a friend won’t receive, give attention to the person who is gone. Give a widowed friend the time to talk about the person they miss. Ask about Valentine’s Day memories and traditions. People say one of the hardest things about being widowed is that other people avoid talking about the person who died because they are afraid of causing pain. It won’t be the same as picking out the perfect bouquet or putting on our best face for a night out, but it does give a widowed friend a chance to show love to her beloved in a new way, by sharing stories of how they loved each other.