Transforming Painful Days into New Traditions

A Table for 1 on Valentine’s Day

Holidays/birthdays/anniversaries … there is always one of these days looming around the corner it seems when we are in the throws of grief. Days that used to hold so much joy and fun and now hold anxiety, dread and loss. How do we cope with these painful days that hold traditions and decades of memories? What do we do on Valentine’s Day when our Valentine has died? I want to talk about how we can be intentional about transitioning parts of these days into new traditions.

As I thought about what to write for Valentine’s Day, another tough holiday particularly for widows and widowers, I thought about a friend who celebrated a milestone birthday a few weeks ago by giving gifts to other people. Not normal. Who does that? But as I thought about what she shared and the joy she spoke of in turning her birthday into a celebration of the special people in her life I couldn’t help but think that it was a generous, beautiful, and kind way to reach outside of oneself. She turned a common tradition upside down by giving on a day when we typically only think of receiving. Now, I don’t think she turned away presents from others, but the emphasis and joy wasn’t derived from her self-focus, it was found in her appreciation of others.

So what can those of us in grief, facing a very different Valentine’s Day do to turn the day around from what we are missing to what we are giving? I think there are intentional ways that we can pass on our traditions and the legacy of our relationships on to others.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Do you know a widow or widower?
    • Take them some flowers or chocolates and tell them you’ve been thinking of them and their spouse.
    • Write them a special note and leave it on their doorstep.
    • Invite a group over to your house for dinner, the more the merrier. Instead of all being alone, create an evening of memory and community that lifts all of your spirits.
  • If you are treating yourself to a coffee, buy one for the person behind you, too. Set off a chain reaction of giving and do it in the name of the person you are missing.
  • Pay for a young couples Valentine dinner.
  • Offer to babysit for someone and give them the gift of a date night, in honor of your loved one.
  • Leave a single flower on your neighbor’s doorstep – flowers cheer everyone up, especially unexpected ones on Valentine’s Day.
  • Call, send texts or messages to people you care about. Take a moment to intentionally say things you may not usually say; tell them how much you love them, how they have blessed your life, or something you love about them.

There are endless ways that you can reach outside of yourself to someone else this Valentine’s Day and this year. It could even become a tradition for you and other friends to take on.

I hope this post inspires you to think of these tough days differently. Whether it’s a birthday, the Superbowl or a significant date just between you and your spouse, take a moment to turn the pain of the memory into a joy that is passed on to someone else.

Molly Keating

About Molly Keating

Hi, I’m Molly and I write for the blog here at O’Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who’s deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try.
Work at O’Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.
I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.

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