Now that the family holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas are over and we have turned our calendars to a new year, the next worldwide holiday approaching is Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day has become the number one romantic holiday in the world but what happens if you find yourself alone for this momentous occasion? How do you make it through?
Even if you are alone by choice in your life, spending Valentine’s Day alone can be a depressing experience if you allow it to be. I should know, it used to be the worst day on the calendar for me. When I was married, Valentine’s Day was just another day in the year for my husband. It really didn’t hold much significance for him. Occasionally, I might get a gift but it was always a gift with practicality, such as pot and pans or the one time he bought me flowers but they were in a pot so I could plant them outside in the Spring.
Then after he died, Valentine’s Day was still the worst day of my year because I had no one to share it with. When I did have someone, it was a disappointment. When I didn’t have someone it was depressing. Notice a pattern here? I was never happy on Valentine’s Day.
Some of you reading may be thinking, that isn’t my experience. My partner is wonderful on Valentine’s Day. Maybe you were proposed to on Valentine’s Day or got married that day. Maybe you and your partner always make romantic plans for that day. If so, you probably don’t need to read any farther but if you are like me and have experienced less than stellar Valentine’s Days then read on . . .
For the first three years after my husband died, I should have been throwing a party on Valentine’s Day—a pity party! I felt so sorry for myself. (What’s ironic is that it wasn’t like my Valentine’s Days were always so wonderful when he was alive!) I hated being alone for Valentine’s Day and the month leading up to it.
I would go into stores to see the heart-shaped boxes of candy and the expanded jewelry displays, knowing no one would be buying me a gift that year. I had to listen to the media hype surrounding the holiday. “Take the one you love . . .” “Buy the one you love . . .” I couldn’t get away from it.
And then I woke up from my sleep and realized I had complete control over this dangerous, self-abusive self-absorption and pity. I can choose how I feel. I swore to myself I was not going to spend one more Valentine’s Day feeling sorry for myself. So I started taking Prozac. No, that’s not what I did!
I decided I wanted to be happy and that in order to be happy on Valentine’s Day I was going to have to do and/or think something differently than I had been. I thought of all my options.
I could volunteer somewhere where other’s pain certainly exceeded mine to put my life in perspective and provide a sense of purpose. I could throw a big party for all my single friends. I could go shopping and buy myself the gifts I would wish someone else might buy for me. I could go on vacation. Any of these were viable options that likely would have helped me but I chose gratitude instead.
I began looking at how fortunate I was to have the support of family and friends through my grieving process and I recognized how especially lucky I was to have people who helped me raise my sons through that most difficult time. It was that Valentine’s Day that I decided to use the time to write Thank You notes to those people who had supported my children and helped them through the most difficult time any child will ever go through, the death of a parent.
You wouldn’t believe how full with love my heart became. There is no room for unhappiness, pity or anger with gratitude. Gratitude crowds out all negativity. If you find yourself alone this Valentine’s Day, why not spend the day truly counting your many blessings? If that’s not your thing, then find something to do that will promote the kind of feelings you want to have. Be proactive. Choose your attitude. Enjoy every day, not just Valentine’s Day.