Death impacts every area of our lives, whether big or small. After someone we love dies, we can feel a sense that something is missing or incomplete. We experience bereavement.
A death of someone important to us puts us in a state of bereavement, where we are quite literally deprived of what we once had. After a death, our perspective changes. The experience of losing a vital part of our world causes a whirlwind of emotions. It can come out of nowhere and when all we can do is feel the severity of our loss, it changes our heart. We change. The world looks different now and you might not know how to cope, and you might not want to.
Naming and feeling our emotions can be unknown, scary, and painful. When we know something might cause us pain, we do our best to avoid it. We shove it down and brush it off like it isn’t causing more pain when unspoken or unfelt. That works for a while, until something happens that brings those hidden emotions back to the surface. Something like... Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day can be a joyous occasion for so many people, but often overlooked are those whose who are grieving. Those whose love was ripped away by death and now this holiday may not feel so lovely. It can prompt a range of emotions whether expected or unexpected that force us to look deep inside ourselves and feel.
Let's take a look at some emotions you or your loved ones might be experiencing as this season of love is upon us.
One of the most common emotions we experience after a death is sadness. It comes over us in both expected and unexpected ways. The absence of a loved one can cause sorrow that feels like a sinking sensation in our stomach or tightness in our chest. We may become tearful. Sadness is often uncomfortable, uncontrollable, and unanticipated.
We might get into a state of wondering, “Why me?” It can be frustrating to hear others talking so happily about their plans for the holiday when you are lacking the same opportunities you so badly wish you could experience. It can be irritating to see all the red hearts, flowers, and chocolates at the store knowing the person you used to exchange gifts with is no longer here. This anger can lead to isolation, avoidance, sadness, and guilt. It’s okay to be angry; it’s what we do with the anger that counts.
Lastly, we could experience guilt. Maybe you are thinking about the future and what it will be like to celebrate with someone new. This thought may stop you in your tracks and give you a feeling of guilt and shame. When these thoughts come, it’s important to take a breath and give yourself grace. It is possible to love and grieve while also looking forward to the future possibilities life has to offer. Loving someone new does not lessen the love you have for your person who has died. We all have room for more love in our lives.
Whatever emotions you are feeling this season, know that they are normal and they are valid. While this holiday may not look exactly the way it used to, it is still possible to celebrate the love you have in your life — even if it feels different.
Share the day with someone you love: a friend, a sibling, a parent, or yourself.
Buy yourself the flowers and chocolate.
Make it a day of self-care.
Do the things you love and reflect on your favorite memories.
You might just have a better day than you think. ♥
Erin’s House is here to support our community through their grief. If you are in need of resources or support, please reach out to us to speak with a Child Grief Specialist: Info@ErinsHouse.org or 260.423.2466.
Written by: Kathryn McLaughlin MS.Ed, LMHCA | Grief Clinician/School Liaison & Child Grief Specialist