After my beloved husband died in 2018, I knew that the days ahead, navigating through this new life I never wanted, would be challenging.
Inevitably I encountered emotional landmines, especially during the holidays, riding a roller coaster of triggered anxiety and depression. Even something simple as grocery shopping and spotting a carton of orange sherbet—his favourite dessert—swallowed me whole with a fresh wave of grief.
Now that the bright lights of Christmas and New Year’s are behind us, a new landmine blasts at every turn complete with hearts, flowers, chocolates and advertisements for dinner for two–and when you’re suffering heartache as a widow or widower on Valentine’s Day, they seem to pop up everywhere.
My husband and I didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day with a lot of fanfare, as he was a “here’s-a-gift-for-no-reason” type of guy, however, we did mark the day in our own way.
He’d kick off the morning by serving me tea and toast, using peanut butter to draw a heart on the toast. I would buy him a card—the kind we used to give as kids at school–of course, there wasn’t anything childlike in the note I’d writtem inside the card.
He’d also give me a card—the traditional “for all occasions card.”
Twenty-years ago, my husband gave me a card for my birthday–the card looked oddly familiar, and then when I opened the card I knew why it looked familiar. He had given me that card on our anniversary with a sticky note inside with his endearment—here it was again for my birthday, with a different note inside.
It was a running joke that I treasured all these years, as he said it saved him from never forgetting a card for any occasion, he’d just recycle the card and just change the sticky note to suit the occasion.
Instead of buying me a bouquet of roses or flowers for Valentine’s Day, he’d plant roses and beautiful flowers—perennial wild flowers and annuals in the garden.
I have a black thumb, so my contribution was providing cold lemonade and exchange witty innuendos about gardening with him. I loved sitting in the garden and watching him (great view for me 🙂 ) work his magic with the flowers and vegetable garden he lovingly nurtured.
As I said earlier, he loved giving gifts for no reason, and about six months after he died, I finally went through a few of his things in his man cave area, and discovered a binder filled with vintage Beatles cards.
I figured out that he had been collecting them to surprise me with them at some point, but with chemotherapy and in his weakened state, he hadn’t spend much downtime in his man cave, and I am guessing he forgot about that binder with all that was going on.
It was a bittersweet moment, and I remember having to spend a day in bed after finding the cards—the heart ache was so intense. I then shook myself out of my despair and with tears in my eyes, felt joy for his thoughtfulness. I forced myself to go to MICHAEL’s and purchased a frame. Some of the cards hang in my office where I can enjoy them.
This Valentine’s Day I will make myself toast and use peanut butter to draw a heart on it; I will hold the for-every-occasion-card close to my heart; I will look out into the garden and take in the tall oak tree, and remember the day twenty-eight-years ago when we planted the acorn together on the first day we moved into our home.
I will open the treasure trove of memories my husband left me from the beautiful life he lovingly gifted me every single day of our marriage, remember his deep love, his smile, his wit, his great sense of humour, and how passionate he was about our family, and although it will be another heart-wrenching reminder of all that I’ve lost, I will force myself to smile through the tears and continue to be grateful for the everlasting love we share.
As I do every night, I will close my eyes, remember his soft kisses and say, “I’ll see you on the other side of the stars, my love.”
We Relate. We Understand.
We Listen. We Care.
I asked my friends; sisters and brothers in shared grief how they will mark Valentine’s day without the love of their lives and they generously agreed to submit their thoughts.
We all hope that by sharing we will help others who are painstakingly navigating a new life without their life partners to see they are not alone in their grief, and to also help family members understand what their loved one may be feeling during this time.
This year I will be in Vegas celebrating my birthday just a little late. But I’ve always liked Valentine’s Day. Mike and I were both romantic and enjoyed holidays, so when he was alive we always went out for a nice dinner, and he got me roses and chocolate. The way I will celebrate this year is to post a picture on Facebook, saluting the man who will always be my Valentine. Blythe Pulsipher Smith
It will just be another day for me. Pen Women meeting and book club. We have one other widow in book club so she might surprise us with some Valentine cookies but I’m not betting on it, nor do I plan to do anything myself. In the evening we have a blue grass gig at our local Black Rose acoustic group. Nothing special. I would like to be pleasantly surprised. Diane Hoover
Flowers would appear, seemingly out of nowhere, for me on Valentines Day when my husband was alive. Even when we were living together in a small RV after Hurricane Katrina, for four years flowers would appear in the morning and I have no idea where he hid them because there’s no place to hide anything in a tiny RV housing three dogs and two people. He didn’t just buy me flowers because it was Valentine’s Day. He bought them for me because I like flowers. A lot. On Valentine’s Day now, I buy myself flowers. In memory for my love. Therra Cat Jaramillo
Going to lunch with my sister and Dad and dad’s friends from the Senior Center ! Then off for a meeting with my financial man !! Just another day in the life of a widow! Susie Park Welch
I took the day off work. Decided I’d rather work around the house than think about it (Lori passed away on Feb 18, 2014 so our last Valentine’s Day was one where she was in a coma in the hospital and I was sitting bedside). Paul M. Carhart
We did not celebrate and I’m okay with that. Walt was weird about holidays. Birthday sure, tho he did not like being reminded of his own LOL. But he hated the commercialization of Christmas and Valentine’s and rebelled against the social pressure. He was more about doing random things for absolutely no reason but that he loved me. So, Valentine’s is just another day and afterward candy is on sale. 😊 Mica Stone
I’ve escaped to California to visit my brother and sis in law. We’re going to a winery for a tasting and then he’s cooking us a special dinner. It’s peaceful here and I didn’t want to be alone in the house Joe and I created together. Susan Ricci
Who says you can’t meet the love of your life in a bar. It was a very special day for us. We met on Valentines day- 1979. I was going out with a buddy to a popular bar where we were meeting friends from work. I armed myself with three dozen roses and headed out. Over the next couple of hours, I gave out all my roses and spent all my money. I ended up at the bar with my buddy at the end of the night.
(That sounds kind of sad when I say it out loud) 🙂 I did not however feel lonely or disappointed. It had been a fun evening. While I was sitting there at the bar, a gorgeous woman sat down next to me. She bought Me a beer. Did I mention that I had spent all my money? 🙂 We talked until the bar closed and parted ways, exchanging phone numbers. I knew at that point that something was different. Something was special. We began dating the next weekend and moved forward from there for the next 37 years.
Tough day. Usually a toast. I don’t need much to remember it by. It is seared in my memory as one of the best days of my life and changed forever. As with most of the memories, I feel that warmer fondness these days and at those times and try to focus on. that as I blow a delicate kiss to her place in the Universe and feel her spirit with me.
It’s going to be a day like any other day of the week. I have had a lot of single friends through the years and figure if they go through this couple’s celebration every year, then I can, too. Its all the hype around it that drives me a little crazy. If I find myself getting upset I quickly push myself through it. Not much different than the Xmas décor starting in October. After losing Don on Christmas Eve, I couldn’t deal with the reminders of the season. Last year wasn’t as bad so I know I’m moving forward. Sue Phillips
Going to a play at the community theater, “Murder on the Orient Express.” I got the very last ticket for the performance. Someone had to buy that ticket, and that person was me. Susan Matley
I like yellow roses, his preference was red. So if he purchased a dozen roses for me they would be 11 yellow and 1 red. And vice versa if I bought them for him. I think tomorrow I’ll just go buy one of each color. Jan Hayne