It’s that time of the year, when you walk into the store and see all of the red decorations... the hearts, Cupid with his arrow, flowers, candy and lots of other love-related paraphernalia. Oh, and don’t forget the “Valentine” cards. Our daily lives are now flooded with red, pink, and white to remind us of Valentine's Day: a day to pledge our love and affection to that special someone.
Like many holidays though, it can be a challenging time for many people. As a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) specializing in grief and loss, I have had the privilege of seeing the many varied perspectives of having a human experience in this world.
Valentine’s Day can be a trigger for many people. A trigger of sad emotions or even a trigger of just mixed emotions. It can seem that everywhere you turn during the month of February (or even in January it can start popping up), the message is to prepare to give and receive gifts of love and that you need to have a Valentine.
But, what if you don’t? What is your loved one has died? What if it’s the first Valentine’s Day since you and your ex-partner separated? What if it’s the first one since being divorced? What if you’re experiencing a break-up? What if your relationship is on the rocks? My point is that for many, Valentine’s Day is not filled with wonderful, gleeful feelings of love and affection to someone that you’re going to exchange love gifts with.
So, then what do you do? Stay in bed? Grab a tub of ice-cream and binge watch Netflix? Those are options, but are options that will most likely leave you feeling sad and lonely.
Instead of wallowing in sorrow, I suggest to my clients to actually plan for the day. Don’t sit and wait for it to creep up on you, and then you go to work and watch everyone with their chocolates and flowers and feel sad for yourself. No, think of this:
You have a choice in how you think about this day. You can tell yourself the sad and lonely narrative about it that will leave you feeling isolated, or you can shift that narrative.
Do you know that voice in your head? Yes, we all have it. Well, take some control of it. It’s yours. Choose to tell yourself a narrative about the day that is empowering, wholesome, authentic and filled with self-compassion. If you’ve lost a loved one, you can still choose to send love (after all isn’t the day about love?)! You can still choose to be grateful for the times that were shared, and take that feeling of gratitude and direct it inward to yourself. Feel yourself fill with love, gratitude, appreciation and JOY. Then grab a journal, piece of paper, or even your phone. Jot down all of the ways that you can experience JOY in your life. This can be people that bring you joy. List their names. It can be things that you do that makes you laugh, smile or just feel at peace. This can be gardening, yoga, watching a funny video, dancing in your kitchen, working-out at the gym, smelling your favorite perfume, playing a video game. (I’m speaking to both the ladies and gents here!) List things that are specific to you, then grab a handful and do them.
Prime yourself to have an awesome Valentine’s Day regardless of what’s going on around you.
Also, know that you can re-name the day whatever you want to, right? Sheesh, have fun! Stay in an empowered mind-set throughout this day, and try it out anytime you think that you can be triggered into a negative slippery slope.
Acknowledge your emotions- both positive and negative. Then shift into a state of appreciation which moves into self-compassion, then JOY. You’ve got this!
Remember, joy is rooted from the inside. So, you don’t necessarily have to be dancing around the office to be joyful. However, you do want to feel grounded, strong and empowered. That can look any number of ways.
Allow self-compassion to be your pathway to healing and living life in a way that feels authentic to you.
Sarah Harris, LMFT, BC-TMH is a board certified licensed marriage and family therapist and TeleMental health professional. She practices "teletherapy"; therapy via your web-enabled PC camera, phone or iPad. See more about Sarah here.