RESILIENCE: The Heart of the Matter – Tips for Celebrating Valentine’s Day without Your Special Someone

Every year most people avidly prepare for this event, often planning in advance for weeks. Expectations are high as everyone scurries around looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day card, specially wrapped candy, or beautiful flowers for their special “Valentine.” It is a time for celebrating love: romantic love, friendship, special relationships, and significant others. Don’t forget, we even include children, pets, and essentially anyone we want to share our love with. Valentine’s Day is often identified as “A Day of Love.”

But what if your special “Valentine” has passed on?

You are not alone. I remember when the first Valentine’s Day occurred after the loss of my husband. We did not go wild with celebration, but we did buy cards and we said “Happy Valentine’s Day” to each other. Sometimes he gave me candy or flowers. But this time, there was just sadness. I felt alone — my special “Valentine” was gone, so I avoided this holiday.

You, too, may want to just stay home, wrapped in a cocoon of grief and sadness. And that is OK for a time, at the beginning of the grieving process.

OR, you could try something else. … Read on.

Make this day special for another member of your family

Candy in a beautiful, red, heart-shaped box is a wonderful gift. So are flowers or a teddy bear with a heart. Stuffed animals are also good listeners to those with broken hearts. They are OK with tears and hugs, too, so it is OK to buy one for YOU. Remember your loved one and the memories connected to this day.





Tears and laughter are both healing

Go to the store and choose a Valentine’s Day card that you would like to give your lost loved one and one that they would have given to you. Memories will emerge and could bring tears or laughter, depending on your relationship. If this is too stressful and you need a distraction, start tidying up the cards or chat with someone else who is buying a card. You may even laugh at some of the cards together.





Give the gift of love to someone else

Choose a stranger, a neighbor who is alone, the school bus driver, the mail delivery person, or someone else to be your Valentine. Homemade heart-shaped cookies with red sprinkles in a special bag with a bow and individually wrapped chocolate hearts make tasty treats and bring joy to the receiver. A card works well, too. Be creative. It just feels good to make someone’s day.





What did I do for Valentine’s Day this year without my special someone?

I decided the staff at FeedNC in Mooresville would all be my Valentines. They share their love every day by serving those less fortunate. I called my contact, Bonnie Battalia, and shared that I wanted to do something for the staff to recognize their “HEART.” Bonnie took care of the details on her end, and I collected items for each staff member. My next door neighbor, Mabel, also has no Valentine, so I took my gift items to her home and we put these special gifts together — one for her, too. I presented the gift bags to the staff on Feb. 12th so they would have them for Valentine’s Day with gratitude from me for what they give to others.

This year I had 14 Valentines — my daughter included. I felt connected and happy.


Remember, February is “HEART MONTH.” You still have time to do something special and give a gift from the heart!


Photos courtesy of Cheryl Barrett




Cheryl A. Barrett, RN, MSN, NC-BC, is a retired nurse with 30-plus years in a variety of settings: clinical bedside in ICU, staff educator, academic instructor both didactic and clinical, supervisor, home care education, editorial director of a nursing magazine and is a board certified integrative nurse coach.





In 2018 she published Good Grief: Strategies for Building Resilience and Supporting Transformation, inspired by the death of her husband. She won the American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year, 2018 in the category of Palliative Care and Hospice for her book. She is currently creating a companion workbook for those experiencing grief and loss.




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One Comments

  • Douglas Winslow Cooper 14 / 02 / 2021 Reply

    Lots of fine ideas!

    I was stuck without a card to give my wife today, but with
    a pretty text-free card and some colored ink, I made one in time for a little celebration for the love of my life.

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