Celebrating Valentine’s Day as a Widow or Widower: A Moment to Reflect and Renew

Widow sitting on a bench, looking into the distance

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) underneath my cardigan and took it to read in the privacy of my bedroom. Sadly, it was with wide-eyed disappointment that I recognized 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 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 at the time, 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, or for you to buy a card and 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, to visit my husband’s grave and put some flowers in place – even though they will probably end up being supper for marauding rabbits and even, in the case of my husband’s grave, deer!

My 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 usually 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.

If you want to share your feelings, you could always join forces with another widow or widower, or some close friends, to recall treasured times spent with your partner. The restaurant you went to, the evening you spent together – just recalling moments when you and your partner shared this or other romantic occasions.

It is possible to find love again

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.

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.

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.

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