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Valentine’s Day can be a beautiful opportunity to celebrate your relationships, whether your loved ones are here with you or whether they have been gone for some time.

For those who are grieving the loss of a spouse or loved one, Valentine’s Day can be a particularly difficult time. But Valentine’s Day can also be a special time of remembrance, an opportunity to reflect on the love you shared and to find comfort in memories. With a little bit of planning, it is possible to find avenues for healing during this time.  Here are a few ideas to help you breathe a little easier on Valentine’s Day:

Take Time to Honor and Remember the Person You Love

Do something special in memory of your loved one, and celebrate their life and the time that you had together. You may want to look through photographs, listen to their favorite song, or watch their favorite movie. This would also be a good opportunity to visit the graveside and bring a fresh bouquet of flowers. Taking a little time to reflect on the past can be a healthy way to cope with the holiday, but do so in a way that feels right for you.

Have Some Quiet Time

Take deep breaths and allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you need to feel. If painful emotions come to the surface, find a healthy way to express those emotions. Remember, it’s okay if you need to cry. Grief journaling can also be a very effective way to channel your feelings during this season. Find a comfortable location and pour out your thoughts on paper. You might try listing all the things you are grateful for having experienced with your loved one. Meditation is another great tool for managing grief. Find a quiet spot and focus on your breathing. If this is hard for you, pull up a guided meditation video on your phone or computer. It’s amazing what a 15-30 minute relaxation session can do for your state of mind.

Talk About How You’re Feeling

Your friends and family care. Don’t be afraid that you’re going to “bring them down” if you talk honestly about the sadness that you’re experiencing during a culturally-sanctioned “happy” time of year. If you need some time to get something off your chest, this is perfectly acceptable. You shouldn’t feel guilty for taking time to express your grief around others. Too often, our culture encourages us to stifle sad emotions and to put on a happy face. This can make those who grieve feel guilty or ashamed for not being able to pretend to be happy all the time. Reject this irrational guilt, stay in the presence of people who care about you, and confide in them. Let them support you. If your friends and family are unable to support you at this time, join a support group or find a counselor to talk to.

Spend Time with Loved Ones

While it is good to spend some time in solitude and reflection, it is also important to find a healthy balance. Find opportunities to socialize with people who support you and care about you. Go out to dinner or prepare a meal together. Meals are communal experiences, opportunities to show love and support. You might even enjoy a favorite comedic film or television show together. Numerous studies have shown that laughter plays an important role in lowering stress, improving mood, strengthening our relationships, and contributing to our overall health. By taking time to laugh with people that you love, you take a healing step, and the stress of the holiday becomes a little easier to handle. Remember: couples aren’t the only people who can celebrate and have fun on Valentine’s Day.

Treat Yourself

If you don’t have someone to bring you flowers and candy, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to something special on Valentine’s Day! Get a massage, choose a beautiful bouquet to brighten your home, or pick out your favorite chocolates or dessert. This is a day to spoil yourself and enjoy a little self-care, especially if you are missing someone special.

Valentine’s Day will never be the same without your loved one, and it’s okay, even healthy, to experience sadness at this thought. But by planning ahead and incorporating some of these activities in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, you can prepare yourself for the holiday and find peace of mind in the midst of a dizzying array of hearts, cards, and candy.

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