Exploring the Many Faces of Love
For those of us trying to rebuild our lives after the loss of a spouse, there are a few problems with February, which is punctuated boldly with Valentine’s Day.
One is internal, that we still have hearts that are fully capable of love, and no readily available person to share it with. The second is externally. There is the glitz of those heart shaped boxes of chocolate – you know which ones I mean - they are shiny and say, “I Love You” in big letters. If we want one, we have to buy it for ourselves. Another is just a bit of jealousy as we watch other couples go off on cruises and romantic trips together. Or, how about the co-worker who gets flowers delivered to the office? It’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves and left out amid the culture of Valentine’s Day public displays of affection.
In Pathfinder: A Companion Guide for the Widow/er’s Journey, we explore strategies to navigate these very valid emotions. Let’s start with a reality check. For most of us, Valentine’s Day was really the most fun when we were in elementary school and we decorated shoe boxes to collect silly penny valentines from all our classmates. I loved the little candy hearts that said, “Be Mine,” or “Hug Me.” During adulthood, it was very difficult for any established marriage to live up to the romantic commercialism that this holiday suggests. It was expensive and felt too forced to be honest.
Valentine’s Day has its roots in a story of a Christian named Valentine who was imprisoned for his faith. From prison, he wrote letters espousing God’s love to his followers, and these were the letters that inspired the tradition of sending love cards on his feast day. This was obviously not a romantic love, but a type of love called Agape. Even if we are not romantically involved with anyone, we can still practice Agape love. We can take this opportunity to use some of the love that we still generate, and make the world a better place. Why not go back to childhood, and buy a box of those silly valentines, and give one to everyone we meet? I guarantee you’ll get a smile. Or maybe try a random act of kindness, like giving some daffodils to a neighbor. Or telephone an old friend, and share some memories together. You might drop off some crayons to a child care center, or some canned goods to the food pantry. Any of these will spark a feeling that you are part of the true “love culture”. In addition to the giving, be sure to notice and appreciate any act of kindness bestowed upon you. Be sure to thank someone for opening a door for you, or for giving you a smile with your coffee. And maybe while you’re buying those valentines, buy a box of thank you notes to send to the people who are supportive. Let’s not get so bogged down by our loss that we don’t notice all the good that we still have.
We welcome a new columnist this month, Amy Barry. She will address parenting issues, and in this issue, she describes how children grieve. Jane Milardo, LMFT, discusses other issues involving children – second marriages and stepfamilies. Our guest columnist this month, Merrilyn McNatt, APN, shares helpful information about sexually transmitted infections. Judy Clinton describes her personal growth as she honored the work of her late husband who was a playwright. Writing is further explored in Patricia Chaffee’s article on memoirs. She also encourages us to pamper ourselves a bit, and gives some great ideas for our time of respite. There is an article giving practical advice on real estate decisions. We explore Healing Touch, an emerging practice that enhances a sense of well being. Rosemary Collins, RD, brings her British culture to us with an article on teas. Our modern Featured Widow is Lilo Kirby, an inspiring woman from Oklahoma. And as always, we look back into history to learn from those who have gone before us. Lisa Saunders describes how the author, C. S. Lewis, managed his years after the death of his wife. Poetry completes our presentation. I hope that you find both compassion and encouragement to find a healthy outlet for the love that is still in your heart.
PS If you want the chocolates and flowers, go right ahead and buy them. They are mood elevators for sure!