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How to Show Up for a Grieving Friend on Valentine's Day
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How to Show Up for a Grieving Friend on Valentine's Day

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My first Valentine’s Day with my late husband was kind of crummy: Dinner at an overpriced French restaurant in Chicago that had jammed in extra tables for the occasion, which left us sitting about six inches from another pair of very loud lovebirds. We moaned and vowed to never make a Valentine's Day dinner reservation again.

After Ben died, I would have given anything to go back to that chaotic restaurant and pay too much to have just one more dinner and laugh with him. Like so many things when you're grieving, February 14 was a particularly hard day and lonely day. If you have a friend who is grieving on Valentine's Day, here are some ways to make the day a little better for him or her:

Don't text "Happy Valentine's Day!" But do send a text. My first Valentine's Day without Ben came about four months after he died. A well-meaning friend texted me something along the lines of "Happy Valentine's Day! Hope it's a great day with your girls." Ugg. There was nothing happy or great about the day, or any day, even with my sweet daughters by my side. That she was thinking of me was kind, but her text hit the wrong notes. Better:

  • Sending you extra love today.
  • If today feels harder than most days, know I'm thinking about you harder too.
  • I know how much you and X loved each other. I'm thinking about you and your love today. Hugs.
  • I haven't forgotten how hard this is for you. Thinking of you today and every day.

Send the flowers, drop off the chocolates. Their person isn't around to give them a gift or even say the words Happy Valentine's Day. Even though my late husband and I didn't exchange gifts, it still felt so good to find flowers dropped off at my door with a note.

Ask if they need company. Maybe they had a tradition of doing something special with their partner on Valentine's Day. The absence of that activity could make for an extra lonely day. Ask if they'd like to take a walk, join you for dinner, or meet for a fancy cocktail—but make it clear that there is zero pressure to say yes.

See if their kids need help with Valentine's cards. Parenting amid grief is so challenging. You're broken, your kids are broken, and yet you want to try to maintain some kind of normalcy. If your grieving friend has kids, ask if you can help with the task of making Valentine's Day cards to hand out at school. This could mean picking up art supplies/cards from the store or coming over to help them assemble them.

Give them a "heart blitz." Cut out a bunch of brightly colored construction paper hearts. Write something on each: a quality you love about your friend or "you-got-this" quotes. Drive to their house with the hearts and tape and cover their front door with them. Recruit friends to join in.

So often it's not WHAT we do for a friend who is struggling, it's that we did it. Effort is everything.

Written by Rainy Day Boxes, the gift box that changes the way we support others. To learn more click here.