I didn’t expect Valentine’s Day to be so painful.
I’d walked into my grocery store for a couple of ingredients needed for that night’s dinner, mindlessly unaware it was February 14, when the scene caught me short.
The store was packed with shoppers — mostly male – picking up a last-minute Valentine’s gift.
As I walked into the store, men in dress shirts and ties from a day at the office were walking out with bouquets and balloons. The store was awash with pink and red and getting to my needed ingredients meant passing through stands of flowers, tables stacked with Valentine cupcakes and cookie cakes, and bins filled with assorted boxed chocolates.
Taking a short cut to the back of the store, I passed the card aisle which turned out to be a poor choice.
The aisle was Hallmark central — filled top to bottom with pink and red cards and crowded with mostly men (again), sorting for that perfect card.
The full affect of this grocery run unexpectedly triggered my dormant grief and the gaping hole of what I missed bubbled to the top.
I’d gotten used to single mom life. The raw pain from becoming a sudden young widow had softened along with the scary unfamiliarity of doing things alone.
I’d grown accustomed to taking up a small part of my California king bed, going solo to parties and events and even going to the movies by myself.
I no longer flinched at the term single mom (though speaking at an upcoming singles conference this year has me shaking my head with a wondering smile that this is my life).
And I’d begun to dream new dreams and tackle a reviving wish list.
But running headfirst into the world of all things Valentine, love and couples messed with me and I left the grocery store with a fresh wave of loss.
Being one in a world of two is hard.
Valentine’s Day can feel like rubbing salt in a wounded heart when –
you’re single and the wait stretches far past your hoped-for timeline;
you’re divorced and part of an unexpected club you never wanted;
you’re widowed and miss your beloved and being so loved;
you’re married but struggling to keep a fractured life together.
Valentine’s Day hurts when you’re alone in what feels like a world made for couples.
Thing is, I don’t want to spend Valentine’s Day pining for what I don’t have nor do I want to be caught off guard again by the thriving Valentine marketplace. So this year, I have a battle plan.
I’m sharing 5 ways to manage when Valentine’s Day hurts.
When Valentine’s Day Hurts
1.Use your grief to pray for others.
Though it may feel like everyone else is in a relationship, many others are hurting on this day as well. You may have a neighbor who’s a recent widow or a friend who’s dealing with a difficult marriage. Our own pain and loneliness are healthy reminders to pray for friends and family who may also be grieving on Valentine’s Day and to reach out to let them know they are seen and loved.
2. Celebrate the love you DO have.
When my emotions are sinking, I’ve found reaching out to others is a huge boost. Proverbs 11:25 says that “those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Plus, Valetine’s Day isn’t just for couples. I love when my kids leave candies and homemade notes for me and I love making Valentine’s goodies for them to wake up to. Instead of getting caught up in a relationship we don’t have, we can nourish the ones we do.
3. Treat yourself!
This is another proactive way to turn around what can be a hard day. Buy a sunny bouquet for yourself to brighten your kitchen or bedroom. Indulge in a relaxing pedicure or treat yourself to a movie with that full bucket of popcorn and Diet Coke®. Do something for you to lift your spirits – whether it’s a long hike or reading in the coffee shop. Just writing this is inspiring me to make plans!
4. Stay clear of triggers.
Be aware of what sends your emotions spiraling into a funk. It might be certain songs, a restaurant filled with couples or a grocery store teeming with men shopping for their Valentine. When we know our triggers, we can avoid them and choose instead some of the positive steps listed above.
5. Surprise a friend, neighbor or shut-in who needs loved on.
Joy is contagious and giving away joy is one of the best ways to fill up a lonely or hurting heart. Surprise a friend or neighbor going through difficulty with flowers or chocolates on their doorstep. Let a caregiver and the one they care for know they are seen and loved.
Valentine’s day is a wonderful time to visit a nursing home and bring some love to those who are often lonely and overlooked. Scripture promises that when we refresh others, we will be refreshed ourselves.
6. Give your pain to God.
Pain, given and entrusted to God, has great purpose. God will not waste it! Let Him reshape your wounded heart. Let Him be your comfort and fill the emptiness. Let Him chisel out idols of entitlement. Let him satisfy your longings. Let Him deepen your faith in the wilderness and wait. And choose to praise God not after, but right through the pain.