28 Ways to Remember a Loved One on Valentine's Day

A February's worth of ideas to help you honor a deceased loved one

Photo © Cristian Baitg/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

For those grieving the death of a loved one, the holidays generally prove difficult, but Valentine's Day can feel particularly cruel because of its emphasis on the togetherness, love, romance, possibilities, the future, etc., between two people. Moreover, given its significant marketing everywhere these days, as well as merchandise prominently displayed in stores of all types, it is practically impossible to avoid reminders that the "couple's holiday" approaches.

This article offers 28 ideas -- one for each day in February -- to help you honor and remember your deceased loved one on and around Valentine's Day as you attempt to cope with an already broken heart.

• Write a love letter, note or poem to your beloved, attach it to a helium-filled balloon, release it outside and watch it drift away until lost from view. (This generally proves more cathartic than you might initially think.)

• Visit your loved one's gravesite, share your feelings with him or her and leave a Valentine's Day card, flower or other memento.

• Create a "memory chain" by writing your favorite Valentine's Day and/or romantic memories, your present feelings and/or adjectives that reflect the deceased's special qualities onto long, narrow strips of red, pink and white paper (about 8" long by 1" high). Form interlinking loops with each piece to form a chain you can use to frame a doorway, hang across a wall or fireplace mantle, etc.

• On Valentine's Day, make it your mission to help someone else feel special by surprising him or her with a card, a flower or a small box of candy or chocolates, such as the person who delivers your mail or newspaper, a neighbor, the kid who cuts your lawn in the summer, your barber or stylist, etc.

• Purchase and light a special candle or small electric lamp to signify your loved one's continual presence in your heart and mind during the holiday.

• Participate in a local walk/run that raises funds to support a cause your loved one would champion, or to help find a cure for the illness/disease from which he or she died. Exercise offers numerous benefits for reducing the stress caused by grief.

• Invite family members, friends and others who knew and miss your beloved over for a Valentine's meal featuring his or her favorite dish(es) and beverage(s), such as wine, tea, beer, coffee, etc. As you serve each item, share with your guests why he or she loved each offering, or your favorite memories involving this fare.

• Create a memory board and display it in your home.

• Make a point of getting outdoors and exercising (particularly after indulging in Valentine's candy or chocolates!) by simply walking for 30 minutes in a place you associate with your beloved, such as a local park, a shopping mall, or even the cemetery in which he or she rests.

• Make a Valentine's Day memorial wreath for your front door or above the hearth by adding ornaments, decorations and/or photographs of your beloved to a real/artificial heart-shaped wreath.

• Bake or buy a special Valentine's Day treat, such as a cake or cupcakes, and share it with your office coworkers in memory of your loved one.

• Make a special Valentine's Day ornament or decoration using items from around your house, or purchased from a craft store, and then hang it in a place of honor in your home, from your car's rearview mirror, etc.

• Purchase a Valentine's card and/or gift that your loved one might have selected for you and give it to yourself in his or her memory on February 14. If that idea feels odd to you, then consider doing something "just for you" on or around the Valentine's Day holiday that might provide you with a little peace, happiness and even joy, such as going out for dinner, visiting a spa, seeing a movie or connecting with family or friends.

• Whether on your computer or using pen and paper, journal about your favorite Valentine's Day and/or romantic memories involving your beloved -- and consider adding new entries each year thereafter.

• Ask your family members and friends to contribute a memento, favorite photograph, card or personal note to a Valentine's Day "memory table" you set up in your home in your loved one's honor. Afterward, you could also use these items to create a permanent memory box or scrapbook.

• Make a financial contribution to a cause your beloved would champion, whether in his or her name, or anonymously.

• If weather and the season permit, plant a tree, shrub or rose bush in honor and memory of your beloved to serve as a living reminder of the love you carry in your heart during Valentine's Day, and all yearlong, despite your loss.

• Watch your loved one's favorite movie or (if you feel up to it) the first movie you saw together, whether by yourself or with other family members and friends.

• Purchase a Valentine's Day gift with your beloved in mind, wrap it and give it to someone less fortunate in memory of your loved one.

• Create a special Valentine's memorial gift for family members, friends and others who knew your beloved. Gift ideas include personalized silicone wristbands, memorial window decals, framed photos, memorial garden stones, handcrafted items, etc.

• If the weather and season permit, visit the cemetery or memorial park in which your beloved rests and spruce up his or her gravesite by removing old leaves, flowers, twigs/branches and other detritus. You might also clean his or her tombstone, gravemarker or memorial using these basic DIY headstone cleaning tips.

• Create a tribute video using computer software that incorporates your favorite photographs and/or existing video of your beloved, set it to music and share it with your family members and friends.

• Volunteer your time to help a local service organization or your place of worship fulfill its mission of helping others -- especially if your time benefits widows, widowers, "shut-ins," children coping with the loss of one or both parents, or anyone who might otherwise feel alone during the Valentine's holiday.

• Take a road trip and spend Valentine's Day in your beloved's favorite location, attending his or her favorite sporting or recreational event, or doing anything the two of you enjoyed doing together.

Light a virtual Valentine's Day memorial candle in memory of your loved one online. You do not need to create an account or provide any personal information, so you have the option to create this virtual memorial anonymously or share it with anyone you choose.

• During a meal with family members and friends on Valentine's Day, make a special toast in your loved one's memory and/or ask everyone at the table to share their favorite memory of the deceased.

• Create a "memory capsule" by placing significant reminders of your beloved -- such as cards, letters, photographs, souvenirs and other mementoes -- in a sturdy container and burying it in the ground. Hold a small ceremony, if you wish, to honor the occasion after deciding upon a future "do not open until" date.

• Finally, simply accept that whatever you're feeling on or around Valentine's Day is perfectly valid and you should not fight it or pretend your grief is not real. If you feel sad and want to cry, then do so. If you wish to be alone with your thoughts, or in the company of others purely to distract you from your thoughts, then do so. Like our fingerprints, the manner in which each of us mourns the death of someone we love is unique and doesn't follow a timetable, pattern or defined stages. Therefore, the best thing you can do right now is listen to your heart, mind and body as you travel your individual grief journey and do whatever you need to do to survive Valentine's Day and the days, weeks and months ahead.

Related Articles:
How to Survive Valentine's Day Grief
When the Holidays Hurt
Letting Go of Grief
How to Survive Christmas Holiday Grief
How to Survive Thanksgiving Day Grief

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