I’m afraid I don’t have many top tips for getting through Valentine’s day as a widow, but Way Widowed and Young have published ideas from their members which might be helpful if that’s what you are looking for today. I can’t get to the cemetery due to the national lockdown, but if I could, I would do as I have the previous two years and take a red rose to lay on his grave, and I might write to him in my journal if this blog doesn’t get it all out of my system.
I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s day. I was deeply scarred(!) in my teenage years when a Valentine’s card in the class register and so very publicly delivered to me turned out to be a “prank” by my so called friends (because who would send me a card, how ridiculous?!). This Valentine’s aversion was deepened at university when my best friend had half a florist’s stock delivered in our first year while I had nothing. So until I met Chris, my determined stance on Valentine’s day was to be the grinch - it was a fake festival, and I didn’t need a day decided by hallmark to show people that I loved them. Chris usually gave the impression of being a serious, unsentimental, undemonstrative, pragmatic man, and so I assumed that he would take a similar view… I was very wrong! I was quite taken aback when he showered me with gifts and took me for dinner on our first Valentine’s day, and I felt terrible that I had only got him a card. It was the one day a year where cut flowers were allowed without commentary on their carbon footprint and he embraced the opportunity of a day where showing your feelings was encouraged.
Since being widowed, the emotional and rational sides of my brain go to war on Valentine's day. Today I feel torn between the rational side of me that (still) doesn’t really like Valentine’s day, and the emotional side that is really missing the day of showing each other how much we are loved.
Platitudes abound on days like this. I have used the arm analogy before, but imagine that you lose your arm. This is not a mutual decision, you haven’t reached the end of the relationship with your arm, you and your arm still have plans to do more throwing and waving and hugging and other arm related stuff until after you retire. And then your arm is gone, for reasons beyond your control. Now try out one of your platitudes. Any comfort there?
The problem with platitudes is that they seem to appeal to the rational side of my brain, while doing nothing to comfort me emotionally. Rationally, yes, the pain of this loss is worth the joy of having been with Chris, and yes, if I knew how it would play out, rationally I would still have done the same. Yes, rationally speaking I was incredibly lucky to have found a real “true love”, I did learn to love and be loved in return. But… emotionally: whether the pain was worth it, it still hurts; whether I would do it all again, it still hurts; I still love him, he's still dead, and that’s why it still hurts.
In love, we are generally not being rational. If you were married to your love then chances are that somewhere in your vows were words to the effect of “until death parts us”. Implied in this is the fact that (short of an accident or natural disaster) one of you will outlive the other. But whether it’s emotional or rational (possibly a bit of both) we don’t think about that when we say the vows, and if we were to think of our new spouse dying we would imagine it being when we are both really old. We don’t imagine standing at their funeral before we’ve had our life, we assume we will grow old together before one of us dies.
Chris and I met in our 30s, we only had 11 years together, we just made it to our 4th wedding anniversary. We could have had 50 and it wouldn’t have felt like enough. So please don’t share your platitudes, just let me be the Valentine’s grinch.
If today you are missing your love and the platitudes aren’t helping then you’re not alone. But perhaps you can take some small comfort in the thought that it’s only 2 days to pancake day, and if you bought yourself a big box of chocolates you should eat them all today in case you decide at the last minute to give up chocolate for lent!