Valentine’s Day and other emotional challenges

In my case

My husband and I met on February 11th, 1984, for a few moments in the back of an auditorium where I had performed in a musical theatre show at my high school. We met again shortly afterward when he and his friend attended the cast party that was held at somebody’s house.  A few days later, on February 14, Chris showed up at my high school and found me in the music department area.  He was carrying four red roses, and tucked into them was a card which he had written:

“I had a great time meeting you the other night and I do hope our relationship grows.”

I had that card in one of my jewelry boxes for so many years. I wish I knew when it vanished, but eventually it did. I can still picture it perfectly in my mind though, and the words are engraved on my heart.

A long time after he gave that little florist card and the 4 roses to me, Chris confessed how he had agonized over the wording of that note, using his friend as a sounding board while he decided what to write. It was worded a little awkwardly, but I still think his 17-year-old self did a really good job melting the heart of my 16-year-old self. It also became fuel for little inside jokes between us forever.

That Valentine’s Day was the best one ever in my life. Chris and I ended up sharing a total of 29 Valentine’s Days. Some of them were simple, some were lavish. The common denominator was Us.

When we have to just get through it

I write with nouns and pronouns indicating that I am a female whose male sweetheart is deceased. If you regularly follow my pages, then you know that I actually believe that love (and loss) have many more definitions than that. So, different set of pronouns applies to the love (or loss) in your life, please replace them as you see fit.

Well, what do you do when, for whatever reason, you’ve had to get through a Valentine’s Day when there wasn’t a heart, flower, bon bon or any other even vaguely romantic thing or experience in sight?

You just get through it.

There’s no magic solution for dealing with the day that layers expectations upon us from the time we’re small children completing out fill in the blank valentines for everyone in our classes at school. Yes, it’s terribly commercialized. I know. But that doesn’t mean it’s not embedded in our collective psyche.

Hey, it’s a list!

Many of us love lists. Lists help us stay organized. A good list can help you be more efficient; you’ll make fewer frenzied trips to the market if you go through the aisles with a good list in hand. And the feeling of satisfaction you get when you check off items on your list is really a good thing.

Lists help us capture our thoughts and ideas. The list I’m sharing with you below is an Idea List.

It’s a list of things you could do to deal with residual pain from the Valentine’s Day just passed this weekend. It can also be useful for ideas regarding how to deal with it next year if necessary.


1)The love being celebrated doesn’t have to be of the romantic variety. Remember those first grade Valentines? They were in recognition of the love that makes up part of a good friendship. Mail or email or text a few friends to let them know that you care.

2) Have a friend who recently went through a bad breakup or death of a beloved? Put yourself in charge of pouring the wine, blending the margaritas, scooping the Haagen Daas, or shaking the topping on the popcorn. Crack open a beer and make some nachos. Indulge in whatever you enjoy together and remember that togetherness is a human experience that doesn’t require romance.

3) Send a message of support to a military service member via an organization such as Forgotten Soldiers Outreach at:

4) Find out if a local place of worship in your area is having any type of event or outreach program for which you can volunteer to assist.

5) Show some love to your fellow human beings by volunteering in some way to help a homeless shelter, veterans organization, or Senior Center.

6) Animals show people unconditional love all the time. Show some back by helping out at an animal shelter.

(My little dog found a friend, but many animals aren’t as fortunate).

7) Use the Internet to search near you for programs that assist single mothers with very young children. They could probably use a gesture of caring on Valentine’s Day.

8) Go to a coffee shop near you that has a drive-up window. Let the manager know that you would like to pay for the orders for a certain number of cars, or up to a total dollar amount. They can provide a simple message to the customers who benefit from your good deed. Buying a simple cup of coffee – or a half decaf soy macchiato – for a stranger is a kind of Valentine that spreads love any day of the year.

9) Read a romance novel. Whether you prefer them sweet and clean, with just a little bit of passion, or sizzling hot, there are great books out there. Check out my review for “Hot Seals: Heartbreaker” – it came out this week and Valentine’s Day plays a key role.

10) Watch a modern classic movie like Sleepless in Seattle starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, a perfect romantic comedy for Valentine’s Day. Whether you’ve seen it a hundred times or never saw it before, treat yourself to a movie that is simultaneously exquisitely romantic and heartbreakingly real.  It’s a classic you can enjoy by yourself, with a friend, or with a romantic partner.

11) Do something to spoil yourself. Have an indulgent meal, buy yourself a gift, do something you rarely take time for but always enjoy. Blast your favorite music. Do anything that makes you smile!

12) Give yourself permission to feel however it is that you need to feel for a while. If you need to cry for a few minutes … or more than a few minutes … then go right ahead. It’s OK to be sad sometimes no matter what the calendar tries to dictate to you. You’re entitled to feel grief for someone who has died, no matter when the loss happened. If your sweetheart is away from home because of military service, another job or school, you’re entitled to feel their absence even more sharply than usual.

No matter how much you may tell yourself Valentine’s Day is an overblown, commercialized money trap – and Yes, it is – it is also undeniably true that this world of ours needs us to love one another a lot more than we remembered to do. We can benefit from every reminder we have, including the commercialized ones.

How do you get through emotionally challenging days? Please share your thoughts with me at

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