The 14th day of the second month of the year. Valentine’s Day. “Love is in the air,” they’ll tell us.
For so many people, it means flower deliveries, fancy dinners, wine and chocolates. Lingerie and sex too, I suppose, for the lucky ones (those not in the doghouse). Restaurants will be booked, Macy’s will probably sell out of red panties and heart-patterned boxers, and social media will be flooded with love stories and pictures of red roses in vases atop desks.
These are the things I have enjoyed for so long too, but now they all vanish this year. It’s okay I tell myself; this is part of the grief crap. It’s part of that “Year of Firsts” after your husband dies, when you don’t have a love anymore. I will probably look through all the sappy cards he had given me the past 19 Valentine’s Days (we met a week after Valentine’s Day in 1998), and I’ll reminisce about how we fondly remembered this day as our firstborn’s due date 11 years ago. I’ll envision the bouquet he sent me across the country on our very first Valentine’s Day as a couple and all the chocolates he surprised me with in between. But I’ll get through it. I’ll be okay. It’s just another day now.
I’m not the only one feeling like this, I realize.
There are countless people out there right now, wishing February 14 would just. go. away.
So many people are hurting and struggling because of lost loves. Many of them go unnoticed— behind that grocery cart as she stares at those red, cupid boxes of candy at the checkout, standing in front of the Valentine card section at Target, realizing she doesn’t have anyone to buy a card for anymore. She’s invisible to that couple holding hands in the parking lot, too. They don’t see the knife that just pierced her heart right then.
Since my husband has been gone these past couple months, I’ve been writing about it. In response, I’ve gotten dozens of messages from widows (and widowers too) from all over the country, sharing their stories of loss with me. I don’t know why. I am the last person on Earth qualified to give any advice, pep talks or suggestions on anything related to life in general, really. But still, they continue to reach out.
I joined a young widow’s group online. One story is more heartbreaking than another. One widow’s anniversary was Valentine’s Day. Some of these women and the stories of how their husbands were taken away, make my story look like an episode of Punky Brewster with a hint of cancer thrown in. My heart aches for each of them, especially their children— many younger than mine —begging for answers about where daddy went. I know too well, the lack of answers that hold that silence.
The heartbreak is palpable through the emails. The keyboard is usually stained with tears after the exchange. So many of them frozen with fear, with grief, with anxiety and heartache for their future and for their children. Many of them not knowing the best way to carry on. All of them wishing it were a nightmare to wake up from.
I don’t have answers for any of it. I’m still figuring out the way, too. I only tell them to lean on friends and family and people in their lives who offer help —knowing full well that it’s not easy to do. I wonder so often if these women are alone in their grief, maybe they don’t have people to lift them up and help with their burdens. Maybe she doesn’t have any friends to bring her a pot of soup or take her kids for the afternoon so she can cry alone. I really don’t know how to help these new people in my life.
So, I write. I’m writing you, asking you to help them. There are so many heartbroken people that need kindness, encouragement, an ear to bend. So many are hurting every day—not just on this made-up, Hallmark card day of flowers and candy—but every single morning they wake up without their lovers. So this Valentine’s Day, please, look for them. Be that kindness, that encouraging word, that ear. Be the love they feel that day.
My 8-year-old daughter was humming this morning while coloring. I stuck my head around the corner to hear her better. I don’t know how she came across this song, but I smiled when I recognized it as The O’Jays’ version of “Love Train.” I laughed when she sang it out of tune, “People all over the world, join hands, start a love train, love train.”
Out of tune or not, the message couldn’t have been more clear if it were spelled out on a conversation candy heart. LOVE. Pass it on.