Valentine’s Day, a day when love is officially celebrated in the United States, can be a day of increased pain and sadness for the bereaved. Many individuals report images of their heart being shattered or smashed as they describe the pain their loss has created. They find it hard to assemble the pieces back into the beautiful wholeness they once knew.

Others feel frozen and disconnected from those they love. Their feelings no longer flow freely, and they carry a sense of emotional isolation. It is hard to keep one’s heart open when it has been hurt and traumatized by a loss, and yet staying open to the sources of love in your life and remaining a source of love for others is one of the best paths to healing.

One way of turning the difficulty of Valentines Day around is to re-label it as a time of opening the heart. Take some time to identify your feelings and openly accept them. It is likely that a variety of feelings are crowding together, making it hard to feel much of anything. Sometimes making a list of the different feelings you are aware of can help to them out. Noticing what problems the negative feelings stem from and thinking of possible solutions may help to release some of the worries and negative emotions that are present.

Focusing on the greatest source of love currently in your life is another positive way to reconnect with loving feelings. The source could be anyone or anything: a memory, a poem, a painting, an old letter, and spiritual or religious writings, whatever has positive meaning to you. Try relaxing and letting the positive feelings that this inspiration creates fill your mind. What colors does it bring to mind? As you relax, see if you can notice a warm feeling in your chest and let it spread slowly throughout your body.

Connecting with friends and family can be helpful too. You might create a buddy system and agree to exchange flowers or candy with a friend, just for the fun of it. Send a card to someone whom you care about. Call a friend or relative. Go out for lunch or dinner. Let those close to you know that you love them even if its been hard to show it recently. Reach out to someone who might need your attention.

Some people find it comforting to write a note to the person they have lost, and let the person know how they are feeling and what they are doing. Others might honor the person they have lost with a ceremony in their honor.

If Valentine’s Day feels too big to handle, it may be a good time to find a counselor or therapist who can help you through it. Connecting with a support group of other bereaved people may be a great way to open up in a community who understands your experience and is able to offer support.

While the blues might well be a realistic part of your Valentines experience, taking steps to reconnecting with your feelings and with others will allow other colors to flow in, and keep open path of healing.

Laura Slap 2011

Laura Slap-Shelton

Laura Slap-Shelton, Psy.D. was suddenly widowed at the age of 35 in 1991. She had a wonderful 13 month old daughter and four cats. Being a psychologist, she read all of the materials that her psychologist friends brought her and assumed that she had made it to at least stage 3 of grief during her first week of mourning. She quickly discovered, however, that she was still numb, and began the long and unexpected new journey that has shaped her life. In 1991 not very much was known about young widows and the children of young widows. Finding some support groups and bonding with a widow in similar circumstances as well as reading books by widows became the beginning of her path of healing and discovery. This was furthered by interviewing other young widows for a book (yet to be written), and the realization that her horrible, shocking, painful and life altering loss which at first appeared to set her apart, in fact linked her inextricably to the beauty and depth of human experience. In 2001 Dr. Slap-Shelton wanted to create a means of supporting others in their grief journeys and guiding them toward sharing what they had learned with others. In the process of researching ideas for her website and organization, GriefandRenewal.Com, she began to read about widows in India and Africa. She was fortunate to interview women such as Dr. Mohini V.Giri and Margaret Owen, who were working to help the widows in developing countries whose lot was so much worse than her own. This experience further expanded Dr. Slap-Shelton’s horizons leading her to link the status of widows with the status of women, and realize the ultimate importance of helping widows to find their voice and demand their rights. At this point the work of GriefandRenewal.Com is twofold, involving providing ongoing support and information for the bereaved, and also educating others about widows around the world, raising awareness and funds to help widows in India and Africa. Dr. Slap-Shelton continues her work as a psychologist. She remarried in 2000 and has two stepsons in addition to her daughter, who is about to go to college.

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