GriefSpeak: Valentine’s Day for the Broken Hearted

By: Mari Dias

Hearts and roses, chocolates and diamonds. These are the national symbols for Valentine’s Day, a holiday designed to celebrate love. But how can we, the broken hearted who are grieving the death of a loved one or the loss of a relationship, celebrate a day set aside for love? We don’t.

According to Friedman and James of The Grief Recovery Institute, Valentine’s Day may be the most difficult holiday. “When someone we love dies, [or we lose someone to a breakup or divorce] our emotional heart is broken. The heart—the very symbol of the Valentine’s Day celebration—is the aspect of our being that is most damaged by [loss].”

In either case we can get mired in denial, anger, bitterness and most of all envious of those who are sharing their hearts. Susan Block, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School suggests the following:

Ask yourself: What makes you feel better when you feel awful? Which of your coping strategies are helpful?

Replace an unhealthy approach with a healthier one. My suggestions would include self-care be your own Valentine.

Acknowledge It: Oftentimes, denial is a helpful coping mechanism in the short term; however, when you’re ready to accept the loss, you will.

Explore it: Sometimes we feel denial protects us from reality. Writing a letter which includes your feelings is helpful.

Consider it: you may be feeling abandoned or scared – join a grief group or seek out other ways to garner empathetic support.

Express it: Find a safe place to air your emotions: go to an empty beach to scream and cry – it’s amazing how cathartic this exercise is.

Explain it: Tell people how you are feeling. They are sure to understand that your difficulties do not reflect on them.

Dr. Block includes this step by step process to help us spend difficult times in life-affirming activities. She stresses the importance of acknowledging, accepting, and exploring the reality of the loss. Dr. Block also encourages us to consider and express our feelings.

For those of us who are suffering from a broken heart, Valentine’s Day is a trigger. Perhaps sending a Valentine’s Day card to ourselves, replete with a picture of a broken heart may help with our expression.

Dr. Mari Dias is a nationally board-certified counselor, holds a Fellow in Thanatology and is certified in both grief counseling and complicated grief.

She is Professor of Clinical Mental Health, Master of Science program, Johnson & Wales University. Dias is the director of GracePointe Grief Center, in North Kingstown, RI.  For more information, go to:

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