I didn’t expect Valentine’s Day to be so painful.
I needed some ingredients for dinner, and I was blissfully unaware that it was February 14 as I strode through the door of the grocery store. I stopped, caught off guard by the scene before me. The store was awash in pink and red.
Men in dress shirts and ties from a day at the office strode past me, arms loaded with bouquets and balloons. Women, too, though noticeably fewer. I sighed. Getting to the items I needed to cook dinner would mean passing through stands of roses, tables stacked with heart-shaped cupcakes and cookie cakes, and bins filled with assorted boxed chocolates.
I decided to take a shortcut to the back of the store, but that was a poor choice. I ended up in the card aisle. Hallmark central was filled top to bottom with pink and red cards and crowded with last-minute shoppers, frantically searching for that perfect card.
This grocery run unexpectedly triggered my dormant grief. I’ve been a widow since 2011. You’d think I’d have handled this by now, but on that Valentine’s Day, everything I missed rushed back to haunt me.
I’d gotten used to the single-mom life. The raw pain from my husband’s unexpected death had softened, along with the scary unfamiliarity of doing things alone. I’d grown accustomed to using only a small part of my bed, to going solo to parties and events and movies, and raising the kids on my own. I’d even begun to dream new dreams and was tackling a reviving wish list.
But running headfirst into the world of all things romance messed with me, and I left the grocery store with a fresh wave of loss.
Being one in a world of two is hard.
The thing is, I don’t want to spend my time pining for what I don’t have or being caught off guard by unexpected triggers. So, I’ve developed a battle plan to help manage the pain. Maybe it can help you too.
Use your grief to pray for others. People all around us are hurting. Our pain and loneliness are healthy reminders to pray for friends and family who are grieving and to reach out to let them know they are seen and loved.
Celebrate the love you do have. When my emotions are sinking, I’ve found that reaching out to others can provide a considerable boost. Proverbs 11:25 says, “those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (NLT). Instead of getting caught up in relationships we don’t have, we can nourish the ones that we do.
Treat yourself. Do something for yourself to lift your spirits. Read a book. Listen to music. Visit with a friend. Go for a walk. Make plans.
Stay clear of triggers. Be aware of what sends your emotions spiraling into a funk. Knowing your triggers helps you avoid them. Take positive steps like those listed here instead.
Surprise someone who needs an act of love. Joy is contagious, and giving it away is a great way to fill a lonely or hurting heart. Surprise others with a word of encouragement or a gift. Let them know they are seen and loved.
Give your pain to God. Pain, given and entrusted to God, has a great purpose. God will not waste it! Let Him reshape your wounded heart. Let Him be your comfort and fill the emptiness. Let Him satisfy your longings. Let Him deepen your faith as you wait in the wilderness. Choose to praise God through the pain.
LISA APPELO is a speaker, writer, and Bible teacher who inspires women to deepen their faith during times of grief and to find hope in the hard. Formerly a litigating attorney, her days are now filled with parenting seven children, ministering, writing, speaking, and running enough to justify eating lots of dark chocolate. Find encouragement at LisaAppelo.com.