The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Coping with Grief and Loss on Valentine’s Day


Coping with Grief and Loss on Valentine’s Day

If you recently experienced the death of a loved one, coping with your grief during holidays such asbroken heart with band aid Valentine’s Day can be overwhelming. Everyone around you seems to be celebrating love and togetherness, but you are struggling with the fact that your loved one is no longer physically present in your life.   

We all respond to loss and grief in different ways, and methods of coping can span a vast spectrum. These methods are studied by psychologists and social scientists, but you may be surprised to learn that there is very little research on resilience in the grief process… at least in modern Western society. In other words, loss and bereavement does not have to devastate us, and we may be more resilient than we think.

The term “grief work” was coined by Sigmund Freud in his 1913 essay, Mourning and Melancholia. He proposed that the mourning process should result in an eventual detachment from the memories and emotions that linked us to the departed. This letting go process is extremely painful, but without breaking that bond (said Freud), we are not able to heal.

Freud was not a big fan of mysticism and spirituality, and what he didn’t realize was that those bonds CANNOT be broken.  If he’d followed the lead of mourning practices in other cultures, he might have learned that maintaining those bonds produces much healthier outcomes. Most of today’s grief counselors know this, and we now understand grief as a series of tasks that include what researcher William Worden calls “relocating the deceased” in one’s life.

Think about how powerful that word is… relocating. It has both a physical and a non-physical application. In the three-dimensional world where we gather with family during the holidays, send Valentine cards or light birthday candles, the departed is no longer present -- physically -- in that location. But from a metaphysical perspective, many of us sense or understand that the person has merely moved to a different location in time/space. And knowing this can help us create meaningful rituals to make the milestone dates a little less heartbreaking.

So this year, instead of focusing on the absence of your loved one, consider focusing on their presence by inviting them to the festivities. Create symbolic representations and rituals, for example, buying or making a Valentine card and then burning in a ceremony as a way to send your love to the person in spirit. Or cook their favorite dinner and invite friends and family to share it with you.  

Sad feelings are more easily healed and balanced when we invite them in rather than push them away. Our loved ones are still very much a part of us, and recognizing that can provide some relief from pain and open the possibility of finding joy in life again.    

© 2015 by Rev. Terri Daniel, MA, CT.

Certified in Death, Dying and Bereavement

Founder, The Afterlife Education Foundation

End-of-Life Advisor,  Interfaith Chaplaincy

Land: 707-827-3156
Cell: 503-957-7419