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Facing Valentine's Day Without Your Partner

Shutterstock / Alik Mulikov

Valentine's Day without your spouse can be hard, especially for the first time.

Q. I'm facing my first Valentine's Day since my husband died. We used to exchange fun gifts and go out to dinner to celebrate, and I dread spending it without him this year. How do others handle it?

Valentine's Day without your partner can be hard, especially for the first time. It's one of those holidays that can boldly underline your loss. Store windows sprout cutouts of hearts (all those boxes of candy or restaurant tables to sell). The subject saturates TV screens, and even your emails may remind you of what you're missing. I just received one promoting "romantic recipes."

But I suspect bereaved partners' reactions vary, depending in part on how important the day was to the couple. Although my husband always remembered it with flowers or a thoughtful gift, and we exchanged cards, it wasn't a BIG deal to us. After his death, I found I didn't particularly mind Feb. 14. In contrast, a widowed friend of mine felt bereft (like you) as the day approached. She couldn't walk down the street without noticing all the couples who could celebrate together. But she did find a way to deal with the pain.

Here are some ideas that may work for you:

1. Dine with friends. My friend proposed to her bereavement group a Valentine's Day dinner together at a bistro. Everyone jumped at the suggestion and had a fine time. If you don't participate in such a group, consider rounding up some singles you know to share the evening. Divorced people who aren't in a relationship may dislike this holiday as much as you do.

2. Do something loving for yourself. (Isn't "love" what this day is all about?) A massage or a new haircut or even shopping (for anything from pretty shoes to a new shade of lipstick) can give you a lift.

3. Spend time that day with your grandchildren (if you have them) or young nieces/nephews. I find their exuberance and honesty are powerful therapy for sadness.

4. Do a good deed for someone else. It takes your mind off yourself and what you don't have.

5. Make a list of all the people and things (like your garden, your job or your dog) that you love in your life. Think about who or what you might want to add.

And try to hang on to your perspective. Remember, it's only 24 hours. Tomorrow is on the way.


Are you grieving the loss of your spouse or partner? Find support from others today by joining our private grief support group.


Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist, author — and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest Sympathies, When the Man You Love Is Ill, What Do You Say When, and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion. If you have a question for Florence, send her an email.


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Originally published February 2015