Widowhood–Navigating the emotional minefield on Valentine’s Day

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, and I would give him a bowl of Smarties (he loved his sweets).

I’d give him a card—the kind we used to give as kids at school–of course, there wasn’t anything childlike in the naughty note I’d written inside the card (well, I am a romance author after all).

He’d 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.

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 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.”