When St Valentine died in 270AD, little did he know that his demise would leave such a legacy. As a priest, defying the Emperor’s orders, he secretly married couples to spare young men from being sent off to war and became legendary. The rest, as they say, is history!
Wonders do happen…also disappointments
As a somewhat unconfident and shy thirteen-year-old, I was not expecting on St. Valentine’s Day, to find a pile of envelopes on the doormat addressed to me. It was, then, a huge surprise to discover a single, large white envelope bearing my name!
I hid this object of hope (and potential kudos) under my cardigan and took it to read in the privacy of my bedroom. Sadly, it was with wide-eyed disappointment that I recognised my mother’s undeniable handwriting style in the ‘question mark’ and ‘two kisses’, within. The romantic verse from the ‘supposed’ anonymous sender, citing their undying love, was the last straw and left me feeling even more a tragic failure as I made my way to school!
My dear mother meant well, of course, but the disappointment at the time was overwhelming. However, arriving at school that day, other girls had received anonymous Valentine’s cards – immediately identifiable as being from their mum. Needless to say, I felt buoyed in the knowledge that I was not alone!
Hopeful – not hopeless
As time passed, I shed a few pounds and managed to control my wiry locks. This new and improved version of me, gained a steady stream of young men showing interest (well, a few, anyway…..) and in the process, I acquired a degree of confidence.
It became the norm not to expect Valentine’s cards, as such messages were often sent by the boys you did not particularly want to be your Valentine! Although, the fact that I kept the very few I did receive, suggests a need for reassurance that I was a desirable prospect for some.
It wasn’t until I found myself in a steady relationship and the man of the moment sent me a Valentine’s card (which was unexpected), that I felt truly moved and a member of an elitist club. Now and again I am reminded of the pleasure and satisfaction this Valentine’s card had afforded me, and think warmly of the nice guy who sent it.
A time to reflect, a time to renew
When we fall in love and commit ourselves to a long-term relationship, we do not dwell on the possibility that it could ever come to an end. For a widowed man or woman, Valentine’s Day can be particularly challenging. It is likely to accentuate the fact that there is no one to send you a card and no one for whom you would want to buy a card!
It is human nature that some of us will inwardly elicit a little self-pity. And you are allowed! For my part, as a widow, I will use the day as I always do. I will visit my husband’s grave and put some flowers in place – even though they will probably end up being supper for marauding rabbits, and in the case of my husband’s grave, the local deer!
My late husband, as it happens, was never one for the commercial excesses of Valentine’s Day. However, he was known to come home on random occasions and surprise me with flowers and sweet words, for no apparent reason.
These unexpected flourishes kept our romance flowing and were always appreciated and remain forever in my bank of fond memories. This is not to say there isn’t a place for Valentine’s Day and the cards, gifts and celebrations that can accompany it. In fact, I would always buy my husband a Valentine’s card, which I would like to think he appreciated.
Acknowledging the love you shared with your partner
If you’re recently widowed, you might like to acknowledge the feelings you shared with your partner in some other way. Taking flowers to a loved one’s grave is an expression of your love and momentarily brings you closer to them.
For some, planting a tree in a green space where you used to spend time together can be extremely cathartic. Making a point of visiting your tree on this special day, and indeed other memorable occasions, is a beautiful and lasting way of recalling the love you had for each other.
As widows or widowers, we are likely to think that our ‘Valentine’s Day’ experience has been and gone, but if you do want to find love again, there are possibilities out there. Apart from meet-up groups that exist for folks just like you or me, there are also clubs and sporting activities where single men and women are looking to meet others. Online dating is another good way to find that special someone.
By taking your time and being sure that this is what you want, can help your recovery and, hopefully, help you to find future happiness with someone new. Someone who is ready to take those first few steps towards romance and friendship following the loss of a loved one.
Falling in love again
As time moves on, you may well find yourself in a relationship with a new partner or second marriage. When Valentine’s Day comes around, thoughts of your deceased partner could hinder the feelings you have for the new man or woman in your life and this could prove to be a challenging experience. However, it is possible to have more than one love in your lifetime with each one bringing a different experience.
In an ideal world, you might both be widowed and thus the situation could be easier to negotiate. Acknowledging that both of you have loved and lost and now have the good fortune to have found each other is a fresh start and a celebration in itself.
As a widow or widower, however you feel about Valentine’s Day, don’t give up hope that friendship and romance could once again come your way – either by chance or by design. Keep hold of the memories you have of your late partner, but be prepared to open your heart, should romance come knocking on your door.
Founder of Widowsorwidowers.com. Writer/Blogger. Publications include Huff Post UK, Esme, High 50 and Living Better 50.