Facing your first Valentine’s Day after the death of a loved one

Your first Valentine’s Day alone after the death of a loved one can be a painful reminder of what you’ve lost. Here, Bianca Neumann, Head of Bereavement at Sue Ryder, offers some advice on how to face Valentine’s Day for the first time without your partner by your side.

A woman holding a red rose

Valentine's Day is a time when people celebrate their love for each other, but for those who have lost their partner it can be incredibly hard for the first time, especially as memories of their loved one return and they are reminded of their time together. 

Bianca Neumann, Sue Ryder's Head of Bereavement, gives some advice and tips below to help you through, suggesting alternative ways you can spend Valentine's Day. Not everyone will feel the same way and the day will bring up different feelings for different people.

As Bianca says, “This Valentine’s Day, be loving and kind to yourself.” You'll experience a mixture of emotions and the most important thing is that you do what feels right for you.

Celebrate the love you have for your friends

Valentine’s Day has evolved past just being a day for couples, we now have ‘Galentine’s Day’ and ‘Palentine’s Day’ that help people celebrate their love for their friends and family. So, on this Valentine’s Day, in the face of absence and loss, try and celebrate the love that is all around you in your friends and family.

Reflect on what your partner’s love did for you

Just because your partner is no longer with you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t remember how their love made you feel. It can be painful but it can also be a way of remembering them in a different light and focussing on the good times that made you who you are today. We don’t have to make feelings go away when someone has died; we have to explore them, gently and at our own pace.

Write them a card to tell them how you feel

Sometimes getting our feelings out on paper can help us process the complex emotions we are feeling. Writing to your loved one may feel strange, but it is a way of validating your emotions and feeling closer to your loved one, even though they’re not there with you.

Do something that you used to do with your loved one

If you want to feel closer to your loved one, you could do something that you used to do together to remember them. That might be a meal from your favourite takeaway or simply a walk you liked to do together.

Know that you are not alone

You may feel like everyone in your life is celebrating with a partner, but know that you are not alone in your grief. Sue Ryder’s Online Community has lots of advice from bereaved people on how to cope with these kinds of days. It’s useful knowing that there are other people whose partner has died out there who understand. Don’t hold it all in.

Ignore the day completely

If you are really struggling with the thought of Valentine’s Day, you could ignore the day completely. Take the day off work if you can, delete your social media for the day and do things that make you happy – maybe that’s baking, watching a Netflix show, going on a walk or simply having a lazy day.

The truth is, the day will be full of different feelings. There will be many firsts without your partner. Bereaved people often tell us that the run up to these days is actually more exhausting than the day itself. This Valentine’s Day, be loving and kind to yourself. 

This blog post originally appeared on Female First, February 1 2021.

Find more advice and resources on how to provide the best support to someone you know who is bereaved, and guidance for people who are struggling with their own grief.

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